Belfast Telegraph

Mother of two who felt sexually harassed by estate agent feared homelessness

A woman who says she feared confronting her estate agent about his unwanted advances says better protection is needed for tenants.

Ruth Coppinger called for services for renters who are being sexually harassed by their landlords (Brian Lawless/PA)
Ruth Coppinger called for services for renters who are being sexually harassed by their landlords (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Aine McMahon PA

A mother of two who claimed she was sexually harassed by an estate agent was afraid to ask him to stop for fear of becoming homeless.

Solidarity People Before Profit TD Ruth Coppinger held a press conference in Dublin on Tuesday to call for services for renters who are being sexually harassed by their landlords.

Kirsty-Cyane McGill – who has children aged 10 and 15 – was in receipt of housing assistance payment (HAP) and said she spent ten months searching for a home after her landlord told her he was selling up.

Ms Cyane-McGill, 33, contacted Ms Coppinger about her own experience after she revealed last week texts a young woman received from a landlord propositioning sex in lieu of rent in the Dail last week.

She said: “The estate agent sent me a message suggesting we go out for a drink to celebrate your lease. He said he would have dinner on and wine chilling, so it made me very uncomfortable.

“I was petrified to say anything after it took me so long to find somewhere to live. I have two young kids and didn’t want to move again, so I was terrified to say anything in case I upset him.

“The heating stopped working properly in the house, so I challenged him on it and he landed up to the house giving us notice to quit. He terrified me and wouldn’t leave the house. I had to go get a neighbour to get him out of my house.”

Ms Cyane-McGill said she was scared that the estate agent had a key and said she felt he knew she was in a vulnerable position and abused his power.

During this time, her boyfriend, who did not live with her, died suddenly. She said she experienced delays with her housing assistance payment leading to her rent being overdue.

She said the relationship with the estate agent soured and she moved out in October 2017.

Ms Coppinger said the housing crisis “is making conditions ripe for predatory landlords”.

She said her office is receiving numerous disclosures about landlords sending inappropriate messages to tenants and that women in receipt of housing assistance payment are most vulnerable.

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise that tenants reliant on HAP are mainly young, lone parents with young children. They are being exposed to unwanted sexual attention and abuse” she said.

Ms Coppinger is to meet Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy to discuss what can be done to help tenants who find themselves in this situation.

She said she wants to see an end to HAP as the basis for social housing and that more public and affordable homes should be built.

PA

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