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Judiciary 'deferential' to councils on issue of housing

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A survey commissioned by Irish Life shows that thousands of families are set to be hit with huge tax bills when they inherit homes due to rising property prices. Photo: Stock Image

A survey commissioned by Irish Life shows that thousands of families are set to be hit with huge tax bills when they inherit homes due to rising property prices. Photo: Stock Image

A survey commissioned by Irish Life shows that thousands of families are set to be hit with huge tax bills when they inherit homes due to rising property prices. Photo: Stock Image

Judges have shown a deferential approach towards local authorities in cases involving housing and homelessness, according to a report by an independent law centre.

Courts appear extremely reluctant to interfere with decisions made by local councils, the Mercy Law Resource Centre said.

The centre, which helps homeless people with free legal advice, made the observations following a number of cases where applicants failed in challenges against decisions made by councils regarding accommodation.

The report, 'Children and Homelessness: A Gap in Legal Protection', concluded that attempts to rely on the courts to vindicate the rights of homeless children had proven broadly ineffective.

It said this was attributable to the fact there is no right to shelter in the Constitution or in statute, the notable reluctance of judges to second-guess public authorities in issues concerning housing and homelessness, and the lack of legal aid for housing and homelessness matters.

The centre said it was involved in three separate High Court cases on behalf of three single mothers and their children, some with special needs. These families were refused access to emergency accommodation by councils.

The courts refused to grant orders compelling the councils to provide emergency accommodation as there is no right to shelter in Irish law.

The centre's acting managing solicitor, Sinead Kerin, said the cases showed the failure by the State to provide emergency accommodation cannot be challenged in the courts.

In one case examined in the report, the centre said a court emphasised the expertise of the council and the comparative lack of judicial competence over issues concerning the allocation of housing. This "deferential" approach was also taken in other cases.

Irish Independent