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South Dublin County Council sued by homeless couple for failing to decide housing support application

The High Court heard that the council had failed in its duty towards the couple.

Image: RollingNews.ie

A HOMELESS COUPLE are suing South Dublin County Council for allegedly failing to respond to an application for social housing support.

The couple, both of whom are in their 60s, have been homeless since March 2018. The couple, a man and a woman, are Romanian and have lived in Ireland since 2006. They both suffer from a number of serious medical conditions.

The couple allege that South Dublin County Council failed to respond to an application for social housing support made in January 2019, in a clear breach of statutory duty.

The man has epilepsy and previously suffered from throat cancer. The woman has also suffered from lung cancer. 

After being made homeless, they accessed emergency accommodation from Dublin City Council. 

The High Court was told today that the couple left the accommodation due to anti-social behaviour and the fact that it wasn’t suitable given their health issues.

They were currently, Mr Justice Michael McGrath was told, living with relatives on an “ad hoc” basis and sleeping on a couch. 

They were both receiving disability allowance. 

The court was told by barrister Siobhan Phelan that the couple, neither of whom speak English, had applied for social housing support from South Dublin County Council but had not received any reply.

The couple were represented by the Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC), who followed up with the council on their behalf but failed to receive any decision from the council. 

The couple argue that the council is under an obligation, under the Housing Act, to assess and respond to the application for social housing supports within 12 weeks. 

The failure to do so by South Dublin County Council was “irrational” and “unreasonable”, Phelan said.

“They were met simply with silence from the council,” Phelan said, when FLAC tried to contact them. 

South Dublin County Council, represented by Conleth Bradley SC and Karen Denning BL, argued that it had not failed in its duties under legislation. 

The council said that in March 2017 it received an undated and unsigned application form for housing supports from the couple, which was not processed because of the volume of applications received by the council, as well as changes in staffing. 

The council also argue in their statement of opposition to the court that the couple were told in January 2018 that the council was unable to carry out a full assessment of their application at that time and that they were informed that the application could not be progressed on the basis that the application didn’t meet the requirements of the guidelines. 

The court also heard that the council was wrong to refer to a 2012 circular from the Department of Housing that advised councils on what to consider when assessing an application for social housing support from non-Irish nationals. 

Phelan said that the work record of the couple had no relevance to the application. The couple, she said, were EU nationals and there were cases of other councils providing social housing supports to non-Irish nationals who did not have a record of 52 weeks employment. 

Bradley, representing the council, said in court that it had not “refused” the application and no new decision had been made in January 2019

The couple, the council argued, didn’t seek to challenge the decision of South Dublin County Council in January 2018. 

“It is not like planning permission,” Phelan said, adding that councils must respond to “dynamic” needs of social housing applicants. 

“In assessing the housing need of individuals, the respondent is under a statutory obligation to consider all applications,” she said. 

The hearing is still continuing. The council’s legal counsel is due to give more evidence on its behalf this afternoon.

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