MLRC recently assisted a client in successfully accessing social housing support and consequentially the Housing Assistance Payment, after her request was refused on two previous occasions on the grounds that she is a property owner in another country.
Our client, an EU national, has resided in Ireland since 2004 and has three children. She has previously worked in the State and is well settled here, with no intention of leaving. She owns an apartment in the EU State in which she was born, where a relative currently resides with no alternative accommodation available to her and no possibility of moving due to poor health, immobility and lack of financial resources. The client’s relative has acquired a legal right to reside in the property under domestic law of the EU state. In any event, the client had no intention to return to live in the property. The refusal of our client’s application placed her under financial stress and at risk of homelessness. The reason provided for the refusal was simply ‘ownership of a property in another country’.
We were instructed to assist this client with an appeal against the decision to refuse her access to the social housing list. MLRC has had a number of clients who similarly have been refused access due to ownership of property in another country. Though such ownership may render the individual ineligible for housing supports, the housing authority must assess each case on its own merits. The housing authority must determine whether the land or property abroad constitutes “alternative reasonable accommodation” within the relevant regulation. In this assessment, the housing authority must assess firstly if sale of the property in the first instance would be possible, and secondly if the proceeds of the sale of the land or property would enable the applicant to meet their accommodation needs in the State.
In our appeal to the housing authority, we argued that their decision breached our client’s rights under Irish and EU law. We contended that that if our client and her children were obliged to return to the EU State to reside in the property with her grandmother, it would be overcrowded and cause our client to share one bedroom with her three children. The other alternative would require her grandmother to be evicted, which was not legally permissible. Most significantly, we argued that to require the client to move back to the EU Member State and reside in the property would breach her right to free movement. We also argued that refusing her access to social housing supports breached her right to equal treatment under EU Law in relation to social advantage supports.
The case also raised fair procedures considerations, given the paucity of the consideration of the particular facts of the case by the housing authority and the lack of reasons provided with its decision to refuse the application. In our appeal on behalf of the client, we submitted that fair procedures were not properly afforded to our client: she was not given an opportunity to properly be heard, there were no clear and rational reasons provided by the housing authority for their decision nor was there any evidence of careful consideration being given to the applicant’s particular situation.
Following our intervention, the housing authority confirmed that our client was entitled to social housing support and consequentially would be able to access to the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP). This decision came as a great relief for our client. MLRC are delighted to have secured a successful outcome for her.