MLRC publishes information note on the new procedure for evictions from local authority housing

The new procedure for eviction from housing authority accommodation was brought into effect on 13 April 2015.  This procedure is provided in the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014.  MLRC has published a summary of the new procedure. The new procedure is detailed and very technical in places.  The summary gives an overview of the key aspects of the new procedure – the tenancy warning, the review of the tenancy warning, the proceedings for possession.  It also notes the welcome changes in the new procedure and potential issues with it, in particular the glaring issue of the lack of legal aid available for tenants facing proceedings for possession.  For the summary, please click here

 

 

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Latest MLRC e-zine is now available to read (issue 3, 2015)

Read the latest news from MLRC, including successful outcomes for clients, Frequently Asked Questions on social housing and related social welfare law, updates on our policy work and more.

Read our latest e-zine here.

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MLRC submission to UN Universal Periodic Review

In May 2015, Ireland will be reviewed by the UN High Commission for Human Rights as to its compliance with its human rights obligations. This process is the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Ireland was last reviewed in this process in 2011.

In September, MLRC sent its submission to the UN High Commission for Human Rights for the UN Universal Periodic Review. MLRC’s submission is available here. Among MLRC’s recommendations in the light of this crisis in homelessness, recommended that the right to housing be protected in Irish law, that civil legal aid be extended to cases of eviction, and that legislative and policy measures be put in place to ensure rent supplement and the new Housing Assistance Payment can meet market rent.

MLRC also submitted to the ICCL Your Rights Right Now stakeholder report. This report is available here. ICCL’s report is still open for endorsements. If you would like to endorse ICCL’s report, please contact the ICCL at rightsnow@iccl.ie .

MLRC also submitted to the the Department of Justice, in response to its request for submissions ahead of the UPR, read here. MLRC participated in the consultation held by the Department of Justice on the submissions in November, highlighting the key points of the submission in respect of the vital need for the right to housing and legal aid in cases of eviction from social housing.

About the UPR

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the Human Rights Council. It gives the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations.

The UPR was created through the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006 by resolution 60/251, which established the Human Rights Council itself. It is a cooperative process which, by October 2011, has reviewed the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States.

Currently, no other universal mechanism of this kind exists. The UPR is one of the key elements of the Council which reminds States of their responsibility to fully respect and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms. The ultimate aim of this mechanism is to improve the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur. For more information see http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx

 

 

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There is no legal aid available for housing cases – local authority tenants are, in the vast majority of cases, unable to access any legal representation due to the high costs involved – in respect of the fundamental protection of their family home – MLRC case study

Our client was married and lives with her children in a council house. The marriage irrevocably broke down as her husband was severely abusive, had amassed significant debts and had refused to pay his portion of the rent to the Council. Our client obtained a barring order against her ex-husband who was then ordered to leave the family home. The ex-husband’s rent arrears continued to amass over time and were still growing when our client first came to us. We negotiated with the Council and proved that the ex-husband was no longer living at the property. The Council agreed and then reduced his portion of rent to zero euro thus halting the rent arrears from further increasing.

Consent of both parties is needed to remove a joint tenant from a Council house and where it is not forthcoming the joint tenant must then access the Circuit Court for an order to remove the other tenant from the joint tenancy.  Circuit Court applications are very costly and there is no legal aid available in respect of housing cases save in very narrow circumstances. This means the applicant must bear all the legal costs no matter what their income is.  Our client could not afford to do this as she has to rear her family on social welfare and also had to repay the debts of her husband incurred in their joint names. Therefore this avenue to justice was blocked.

However, the Council actively negotiated with the ex-husband and he agreed to sign a tenancy surrender on consent and an agreement was reached on the arrears. Our client then became the sole tenant of her council home.

If the ex-husband had refused to surrender his tenancy, our client did not have the funds to access the Circuit Court and therefore would have been denied access to the courts to resolve this fundamental issue.This clearly shows the gap in the civil legal aid system.

In this area of law involving a person’s home, privacy and dignity, the threat and process of seeking possession for a local authority tenant is most often a hugely stressful and chaotic time. Without access to free legal aid, local authority tenants are, in the vast majority of cases, unable to access any legal representation due to the high costs involved. If housing issues are not included in the legal aid scheme, the State may be denying access to people on lower incomes to the legal system. The Special Rapporteur on Poverty in 2011, aware of the economic downturn in Ireland and budgetary cuts underway, recommended that Ireland provide this vital legal service to those living in poverty facing eviction proceedings and local authority issues. Similarly, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Concluding observations on the third period report of Ireland in June 2015 recommended that “the state party ensure the provision of free legal aid in a wider range of areas, including through expanding the remit of the Civil Legal Aid Scheme.”

The State legal aid scheme should be expanded to include State legal aid in housing cases, particularly those involving eviction from social housing.

 

 

 

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The misuse and barrier of ‘intentional’ homeless test in accessing social housing homeless priority – MLRC case studies

Case study 1

Our client was evicted from his property after three years of privately renting there. He was evicted in March 2014 and has been homeless since then.   The local authority claimed that he made himself ‘intentionally’ homeless and his homeless priority on the housing list was deferred indefinitely.  While this concept/test exists in other jurisdictions it is not within our legal framework and is a clear breach and misapplication of the Housing Regulations.

After lengthy negotiations with the Council highlighting this misinterpretation of the Housing Regulations, the local authority reviewed this matter and backdated our clients’ homeless priority to March 2014.

Also, on review of his freedom of information file from the Council, it clearly showed that fair procedures were not followed by the landlord and our client was illegally evicted. Unfortunately he was outside the short time allowed to lodge a complaint to the Private Residential Tenancies Board and was therefore denied access to justice. Our client, is still awaiting suitable social housing and is now entering his twenty first month in an emergency accommodation hostel.

 

Case study 2

Our client is a single mother of two children and was denied access to the homeless priority list.  She was evicted from her privately rented home for rent arrears of only a very small amount and was forced into homelessness.  After advocating on her behalf with a local authority and again pointing out that ‘intentional’ homelessness cannot be used as a bar to access the homeless priority list and is a misuse of the eligibility criteria, the Council agreed to backdate her homeless priority to March of this year.

Our client is currently living in a one bedroom of a hotel with two beds for herself and her two small children with no cooking facilities and is now entering her ninth month in emergency accommodation. Our client is only 22 years of age and has been in care for a lot of her own childhood and has no family support and receives only financial state support. The added stress of being denied homeless priority is wholly unnecessary and further exacerbated the distress which our client is experiencing having no place to call her home to raise her children safely.

 

 

 

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