High Court decision on housing allocation to separated fathers

On 19th November, 2018, Justice Barrett handed down a decision in Fagan & Ors v Dublin City Council. The case concerned a father, who although separated from the mother of his children, still had overnight access to his children during the week. This fact was known to the Council from 2017, however, upon reviewing Mr. Fagan’s application for social housing under s.20 (1) (c) of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, the Council found Mr. Fagan’s housing need to constitute that of a single person. The issue considered in the written judgement was that of the appropriate housing allocation to Mr Fagan, in light of the access to his children.

In submissions, counsel for Mr. Fagan contended that there was a fettering of discretion by the Council and that his case should be considered given reference to the text instilled in s 20 (1) (c) – “2 or more persons who do not live together but who, in the opinion of the housing authority concerned, have a reasonable requirement to live together”.  When considering the Council’s decision not to regard Mr. Fagan’s housing need as more than that of a single person, the court held that there was “no legal deficiency to present in the Council’s decision/decision-making when it comes to Mr. Fagan’s application for social housing”.  Upon this, the court denied Mr. Fagan the reliefs sought in his application and found that the Council’s interpretation of s. 20 (1) (c) was permissible.

The decision in Fagan shows a continued trend of a deferential approach by the courts to decisions of the Council. MLRC notes that the Council’s interpretation of ‘reasonable requirement’ is quite restricted and does not have regard to the fact that Mr. Fagan is:

  • The father of the child;
  • That there was a voluntary overnight access agreement in place between the separated parents;
  • That the children had overnight access to their father;
  • That the family life of Mr. Fagan and his children is infringed upon by not allowing them to reside together as per the terms of the agreement.

It is clear that the refusal of the court to quash the decision of the Council will continue to have a direct impact on the ability of the children to enjoy a family life with their father, particularly in the current housing context. It is also noteworthy that any decision of the Dublin City Council to deny Mr. Fagan an elevated level of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is at variance with practice in other housing authorities in the Dublin area. It appears that Mr. Fagan is receiving differential treatment as a separated father who has regular access to his children. The Council’s approach appears to be at variance with the Council’s equal treatment obligation under the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015, and its Public Sector Duty under S.42 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014, to eliminate discrimination and protection human rights in the performance of its functions.

Conclusion

MLRC did not act in this case but is currently advising four separated fathers on very similar matters. Mr Fagan’s case clearly shows the court’s clear reluctance to interfere or second guess the determination of Councils in the discharge of its functions relating to social housing. We note that solicitor for the applicant confirmed the applicant’s intention to appeal, and we will follow the progress of the case with interest.

 

 

 

 

For more information on Mercy Law Resource Centre’s work, please see www.mercylaw.ie.

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All information provided on this blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Click here to read more.

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MLRC delivers training on housing law to volunteers of Inner City Outreach Network (ICON)

As part of MLRC’s work, we provide training in housing law to organisations and individuals working in the field of homelessness. In October, MLRC held a training session in housing law for volunteers working with the Inner City Outreach Network (ICON).

The training session focused in particular on giving an overview of housing law and the law relating to homelessness, and common legal issues arising with accessing legal entitlements in relation to housing. The session also focused on areas such as accessing information under the Freedom of Information legislation and access to the Housing Assistance Payment.

In their feedback, attendees described the session as:

“Clear and incredibly useful”

“Helpful and very informative”

“Found the training very useful and informative”

 

Attendees also gave feedback that they found the handouts excellent with very informative and relevant content which will be a useful resource in assisting those in their community suffering from or at risk of homelessness.  A number of those at the training said that the training session will make a tremendous difference in their work, particularly the training on the use of FOI requests, the clarity given on the Housing Assistance Payment, and the rules or legislation around social housing and how these should operate.

If you are interested in organising a training session by MLRC, please contact Shauna on 01 4537459 or at events@mercylaw.ie. We would be very happy to hear from you and discuss the training that would be most useful for you.

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on Mercy Law Resource Centre’s work, please see www.mercylaw.ie.

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Disclaimer

All information provided on this blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Click here to read more.

MLRC Solicitor appointed to Traveller Accommodation Expert Working Group

Mercy Law Resource Centre is delighted to announce solicitor David Joyce’s appointment to the Traveller Accommodation Expert Working Group. The working group has been established as part of the Rebuilding Ireland initiative, the aim of which is to undertake an ‘independent review of capital and current funding for Traveller-specific accommodation.’ The expert group will be reviewing the Traveller Accommodation Act 1998 and legislation that relates to the provision and delivery of accommodation for travellers. The working group will be operating within the context of the Travelling community gaining recognition as an ethnic minority in 2017, and will be looking at national and international models of best practice for provision of accommodation for nomadic families.  David is joined by Professor Michelle Norris, Head of Social Policy at UCD and Dr Conor Norton, Head of School at DIT and has been appointed Chairperson of the group.

David has previously engaged in similar roles as a member of the European Roma Rights Centre, the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Inter-culturalism, the Bar Council of Ireland, as an executive of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and with the National Economic and Social Forum. This is in addition to his work as a Commissioner with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and as a member of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency.

David has been a solicitor with Mercy Law Resource Centre since July 2017. He was called to the Bar in 2005. David practiced as a barrister for 8 years and subsequently qualified as a solicitor. We wish David every success with his work on the expert group. We are delighted to be able to draw on David’s expertise, particularly in relation to Traveller accommodation issues, in his continued work here at Mercy Law Resource Centre.

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on Mercy Law Resource Centre’s work, please see www.mercylaw.ie.

 

 

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All information provided on this blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Click here to read more.