Case Studies

We provide free legal representation, including High Court and Tribunal representation, to individual clients, in the areas of social housing and social welfare law e.g. access to local authority housing, local authority evictions, standards of local authority housing and equality cases.   

 

CASE STUDIES 2014

 

Case Study 1 (2014)

Success for MLRC clients: Local authority allocates three bedroom accommodation for long term homeless parents working to re-unite with children in care

Our clients and their key-worker presented at our office having had difficulties with the local authority in not allocating them a 3 bed property due to the fact that their children were not living with them on a full-time basis.

Mercy Law Resource Centre made representations on behalf of our clients, who were living in emergency accommodation on a long term basis. Our clients’ children were residing on a voluntary basis with our clients’ parents due to our clients’ previous issues with addiction. Our clients had overnight access with their children with the support of social workers, key workers etc. Unfortunately as their children were not in their care on a full-time basis the local authority would not allocate them a three bed property.

MLRC made representations on behalf of our clients together with the support of social workers, the clients’ G.P. and key workers etc. and advocated on their behalf as to the reasons why this family should be allocated a three bed property. One of our main arguments was that if the family were allocated anything less than a three bed property it would severely restrict this family’s reintegration.

The local authority considered our submissions and thankfully has allocated three bed accommodation for this family. The family will also have the support of a key worker to sustain the tenancy with the local authority and work towards reintegrating the family with the return of the children to our clients on a full-time basis.

Our clients are currently awaiting details of the three bed accommodation but needless to say are delighted with the outcome.

 

Case Study 2 (2014)

MLRC client, EU citizen, given entry onto housing list – local authority initially refused on basis that applicant did not have a record of having 52 weeks employment in Ireland – local authority overturned initial decision after submissions by MLRC for client

“52 weeks rule” frequently incorrectly applied by local authorities

This decision is important as MLRC is aware, through clients and through discussion with organisations working in the field of homelessness, that non-nationals are very frequently being refused access to the housing list for this reason – that they do not have a record of 52 weeks employment in the State. This criterion of 52 weeks employment concerns the applicant’s right to reside in the State. While the applicant may not have a record of 52 weeks employment in the State, they may very well have a right to reside here based on other grounds. In this case, our client has a right to reside in the State as an EU citizen who is a family member of an EU citizen working in the State.

The case

Our client, an EU national, had separated from her husband, also an EU national. She was living in private rented accommodation with her children. She has a right to reside in the State as an EU citizen who is a family member of an EU citizen working in the State.   She made an application to be included on the local authority’s list for social housing support. The local authority refused and gave as the reason for the refusal that she could not provide evidence of “having 52 weeks employment in the Republic of Ireland as she is a non-Irish citizen.

MLRC made representations on our client’s behalf to the local authority stating that

(i) a record of 52 weeks employment in the State is not a requirement for entry onto the housing list under the Housing Acts nor the Social Housing Assessment Regulations, SI 84 of 2011.

(ii) our client is lawfully resident in the State in accordance with Directive 2004/38/EC (the Citizenship Directive) and associated Regulations; and

(iii) our client did not fall within any express exclusion for entry onto the housing list.

The local authority reviewed our client’s application for social housing support and has now included her on its housing list. It also issued her with a housing needs assessment letter which enables her to make an application for rent supplement and continue to live in the private rented property in which she currently resides with her children.

 

Case Study 3 (2014)

Medical priority on the housing list – “vital need” awarded within medical priority – successful outcome for MLRC client

MLRC recently assisted a family with their application for medical priority with their local authority. Our client’s daughter has severe medical and care needs and whilst the local authority had granted them medical priority the local authority in question did not operate a point system in respect of housing applications including those awaiting accommodation on medical grounds.

MLRC made representations on behalf of our client noting the provisions of the Equal Status Acts and as to the requirement of a housing authority to make reasonable adjustments and provide special treatment to service users and applicants with disabilities. This essentially means that the local authority must prioritise allocations according to urgency of need. In our representations, MLRC noted that the Equality Tribunal and the courts have made clear what is required in allocating accommodation to clients with disabilities. They have held that the authority must objectively assess their needs and use a procedure which takes full account of individual needs and prioritises applicants. While the local authority had considered the needs of the applicant before awarding medical priority, no further measures were taken to award appropriate priority in light of the severity of our client’s daughter’s condition and the urgency of her needs. MLRC made further representations to the local authority on our client’s behalf and sent on a medical report from our client’s daughter’s treating physician. In light of our submission and the medical information submitted, the local authority reviewed the medical priority and awarded the family “vital need” for housing as per our client’s daughter’s housing needs.

The family are now awaiting an offer of suitable accommodation from the local authority.

 

Case Study 4 (2014)

MLRC successful outcome for client who had been refused access to housing list in area where she had lived all her life and where her supports were based, 17/01/14

Mercy Law Resource Centre successfully resolved a case with a local authority on behalf of a client who found herself homeless and living in emergency accommodation.  Our client had become homeless in a local authority area (Local Authority A) in which she had lived all of her life and in which all of her supports (family, friends and medical) were based.

She applied to Local Authority A to be placed on the homeless/housing list. In her application, she had given as her contact address the address of a family member, which was in another local authority area (Local Authority B).  Our client had used this address as at that time she had no permanent address of her own.    Local Authority A refused our client’s application to be put on its housing/homeless list because it appeared that she had become homeless in the area of Local Authority B.

The effect for our client of refusing her entry on the housing list was that she had no prospect of moving from emergency accommodation and of putting her housing on a stable footing in Local Authority A.

MLRC made representations to Local Authority A on behalf of our client in an effort to resolve the matter.  MLRC set out the reasons why our client should be included on Local Authority A’s homeless/housing list.  The matter was finally successfully concluded when Local Authority A accepted MLRC’s submissions for our client. Our client has since been included on Local Authority A’s homeless priority list and is currently awaiting an offer of housing.

 

CASE STUDIES 2013

 

Case Study 1 (2013)

One of our clients, referred to us by a women’s refuge, had left the family home due to domestic violence.  The local authority refused to place her on their housing list as she was a homeowner.  The refuge was unable to provide her with accommodation indefinitely and the client was faced with the prospect of emergency hostel accommodation.

MLRC made submissions to the local authority who eventually issued a Housing Needs Assessment letter which enabled our client to apply for rent supplement and rent privately.

 

Case Study 2 (2013)

Our client is the father of a three-year old girl and two boys aged six and eight. He is living apart from the children’s mother. The parents have joint custody and guardianship of the children and both are actively involved in parenting. The children live primarily with their mother but also spend two or three nights each week with their father. They also spend regular holiday periods with their father and have stayed with him for longer periods while their mother was incapacitated by depression.  The father is a tenant of the local authority and lives in a one-bedroom flat. The flat which has one double bed and one double sofa bed is unsuitable to accommodate the children.

Our client had applied to the council for transfer to a larger unit which would accommodate his children but his application was declined because the children did not live permanently with him. Mercy Law took instructions from the client and made submissions to the council, citing the rights of the children to have full access to both parents and the unsuitability of the father’s accommodation in this context. An amended transfer application was then submitted to include the children and the council subsequently responded by accepting the amended application.  The father’s points allocation was increased to the level required for accommodation with two bedrooms.

This issue has arisen in a number of cases Mercy Law has dealt with. Separated parents who are actively co-parenting  their children can have difficulty securing suitable accommodation for regular overnight stays by the children. In this case, the council was prepared to consider the particular circumstances of the family and to recognize that the father was genuinely involved and committed to full participation in rearing his children. The council took all the evidence presented to it into consideration and revised its assessment of housing need in light of all the facts.

 

Case Study 3 (2013)

Mercy Law Resource Centre successfully settled a case with a local authority on behalf of a client with three children and who found herself homeless and living in emergency accommodation.  Our client had been on the housing list for over 9 years and had signed a tenancy agreement with a voluntary housing agency not knowing the monthly rental rate which our client was not able to afford.  Our client then signed a surrender to the tenancy agreement when she realised that she could not afford the monthly rent without being aware of the implications of doing so.  Our client has poor English and did not understand the ramifications of same.

Our client was removed from the housing list and was advised that she would have to make a new application at the end of 2013 but she would lose all of the points that she had accumulated on the housing list for the last 9 years.  Our client was living in emergency accommodation with her three children and could not access private rented accommodation as she was not on any housing list.

We made representations to the local authority on her behalf in an effort to resolve the matter but it was necessary for us to issue Judicial review proceedings in the High Court as the local authority did not engage in negotiations with the Centre.  Having successfully sought leave in the High Court, the matter settled with the local authority at a very early stage of the proceedings and our client was offered a property by the local authority which she accepted.  Our client is now settled into her new property with her three children.

 

Case Study 4 (2013)

High Court quashes local authority decision not to transfer MLRC’s client to other local authority accommodation based on “exceptional social grounds”

On 4 December 2013, the High Court gave judgement in Zatreanu & Ors v Dublin City Council.  In this case, MLRC, on behalf of its client, Mr Zatreanu, had sought judicial review of Dublin City Council’s decision not to grant MLRC’s client application to transfer to other local authority accommodation based on “exceptional social grounds”.  The case raised important questions regarding the local authority’s obligations in deciding on our client’s application to transfer to other local authority accommodation on “exceptional social grounds”.

MLRC’s client had applied to Dublin City Council for a transfer due to severe harassment suffered by MLRC’s client and his family.  Dublin City Council had refused the transfer on the basis that the issues of harassment were matters for the Gardaí.

The High Court, Hedigan J, found in favour of MLRC’s client quashing the decision of Dublin City Council to refuse his transfer application and returning it for a new decision by the Council.

The case is important in that it clarifies that in deciding on an application to transfer on exceptional social grounds the local authority must have regard to an applicant’s complaints of harassment.

MLRC would like to thank Siobhan Phelan BL and Feichín McDonagh SC who, pro bono, successfully represented our client.

Read more on this High Court case and judgement here.


CASE STUDIES 2012


Case Study 1 (2012)

MLRC   successfully   represented   Lisa   Kinsella   in   her   High   Court   case   against Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council (Kinsella – v – Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council 2012 IEHC 344). This case related to the transparency and accountability of decision-makers, with a view to ensuring that everyone entitled to social housing assistance under the statutor y framework does in fact have access to it.

Ms Kinsella applied to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLRCC) for social housing assistance. She argued that her current accommodation (which was provided by Dublin City Council) was entirely unsuitable because of her severe epilepsy.  She argued that she required family support (her family lived in the DLRCC area) to assist with the care of her young daughter.  DLRCC refused to accept Ms Kinsella‟s application for social housing support. The reason given was that she was ineligible on the basis that she was currently housed by another local authority. The governing legislation was the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 and  the  Social  Housing  Assessment  Regulations  2011.  These  did  include  some  elig ibility criteria, which Ms Kinsella argued she satisfied. However, the legislation did not include any eligibility requirement which disqualified a person who was already housed by another local authority from even having their level of need considered.

The case was described by Mr Justice Hogan as raising an “an important question arising from the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009”.   Mr Justice Hogan found that it was not open to a local authority to impose an eligibility requirement on an applicant for social housing assistance unless there was a clear statutory basis for that eligibility requirement. He stated that if he were to imply additional criteria into the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 „it would be tantamount to adding a further ex ante limitation on who could apply for housing support over and above those limitations stipulated by the Oireachtas‟. Having found that there was no such statutory basis for the „already housed by another local authority‟ eligibility requirement,  Mr  Justice  Hogan  quashed  the  DLRCC‟s   refusal  to  accept  Ms  Kinsella‟s application and sent the matter to DLRCC to reconsider her eligibility.   Ms Kinsella is now housed by DLRCC.

This judgment is particularly significant because it reiterates the law on the exclusive power of the Oireachtas to legislate. In particular, the judgment clarifies the limitations on the power of executive bodies to change or extend the law through regulations which could restrict or alter the rights of applicants. In reaching his conclusions, the learned judge acknowledged that „the issue presented here goes straight to the policy choices confronting the legislative and executive branches with regard to the allocation of scarce resources in the area of social housing.‟

However, it is the 2009 Act that reflects the choice of the legislature in relation to who should be excluded from applying for social housing support.

MLRC welcomes this High Court clarification of the rights of people seeking housing support. It confirms their right to apply, to have an application assessed on its merits and not to be excluded from eligibility without a legislative basis. The case will be of immense precedential value to other social housing applicants.

 

Case Study 2  (2012)

MLRC  represented  a  client  in  her  claim  in  the  Employment  Appeals  Tribunal  for  unfair dismissal against her former employer.  The client had been employed as a childcare worker in a crèche since 2005 and was dismissed for gross misconduct in 2010 without any fair procedures. As a result, the client was unable to pay her rent and was at risk of becoming homeless.

The EAT found that the dismissal was procedurally unfair and lacked proportionality.   They found that the claim under the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 - 2007, succeeded and awarded the Claimant compensation, equivalent to a year’s pay.

 

Case Study 3 (2012)

One of our clients, a mother of two young children was homeless when she attended MLRC. The Local Authority would not accept her on the Homeless List as her name was on a mortgage with her parents and she was perceived to have an interest in her parents’ property even though she had never contributed to the mortgage repayments.  The bank would not release her from the mortgage and she and her children could not live in the property with her parents as her father is a registered sex offender.

MLRC advocated with the Council on our client’s behalf who issued a Housing Needs Assessment letter confirming that she had a housing need.  This client is now in private rented accommodation with her two young children.  The client has been assigned a befriender who will provide non legal support.

 

Case Study 4 (2012)

In early 2010, MLRC met with an asylum seeker who had been in Ireland since 2006.  He had no family in Ireland and was quite disabled as a result of torture.  He came to us with regard to his application for medically suitable accommodation.  MLRC liaised with the relevant agencies and accommodation was secured for him in Dublin which allowed him to access essential medical services.  In early 2012, the gentleman contacted MLRC again as he was informed that he was being moved out of his accommodation to another county despite the fact that his medical team were situated in Dublin.   MLRC advocated on his behalf and a successful agreement was reached with regard to our client’s medical and accommodation needs.

 

Case Study 5 (2012)

One of our clients, a mother of two young children was homeless when she attended MLRC.  The Local Authority would not accept her on the Homeless List as her name was on a mortgage with her parents and she was perceived to have an interest in her parents’ property even though she had never contributed to the mortgage repayments.  The bank would not release here from the mortgage and she and her children could not live in the property with her parents as her father is a registered sex offender.

MLRC advocated with the Council on our client’s behalf who issued a Housing Needs Assessment letter confirming that she had a housing need.  This client is now in private rented accommodation with her two young children.  The client has been assigned a befriender who will provide non legal support.

 

CASE STUDIES 2011


Case Study 1 (2011)

A mother of five children was facing eviction from a local authority due to rent arrears. Four of her children had died and part of the arrears were due to funeral expenses incurred. One of her children, who has a physical and mental disability, lived with her and was also facing homelessness. After reviewing the client’s tenancy documentation, it became apparent that the level of rent charged and arrears had been over estimated. The rent and arrears were significantly reduced, a payment plan was put in place in respect of the remainder of the arrears and the eviction was not pursued. The client was also assigned a befriender who provided non-legal support.

 

Case Study 2 (2011)

A programme refugee, who had been working and studying in the country for over thirty years, lost his job and was subsequently refused social welfare. This resulted in him sleeping rough for a number of years, during which time his refugee documentation and passport were stolen. His mental health had deteriorated significantly by the time he was referred to MLRC by a Health Service. The Centre took on the case and assigned the client a befriender. We obtained clarification on his residency status and advocated on his behalf with the Department of Social Welfare and the Local Authority. The client is now housed and participating in a FAS course.

 

Case Study 3 (2011)

 A separated father with joint custody, access and guardianship rights in respect of his two teenage daughters was refused eligibility for 2 bedroom accommodation by a Local Authority as it was their policy to only award separated fathers bedsit accommodation. Proceedings were instituted before the Equality Tribunal alleging discrimination on the grounds of gender, civil status and marital status.  The matter was fully resolved before hearing and the Tribunal investigation did not then proceed.

 

Case Study 4 (2011)

A Romanian client who had been resident in Ireland since 2002 could not gain access to a Local Authority housing list due to the retrospective application of a rule regarding work permits and eligibility. As a result of this, the client and his family did not qualify for Rent Supplement and were facing eviction. MRLC contacted the local authority and, with the prospect of judicial review proceedings, the client was placed on the housing list with priority backdated to the date of his application.

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