Couple win challenge over council's refusal to include them on social housing list
Posted on 19th December 2019 at 21:36
They were refused on the basis they had voluntarily gifted Polish home to their son
A county council wrongly refused to consider a Polish couple for inclusion on its social housing list because they had owned a flat worth €12,000 in their home country, the High Court has ruled.
Andrzej and Teresa Zabiello, who moved here in 2007, gifted their Polish home in 2014 to their son who then spent €5,000 refurbishing it. They are living here in a rented one-bedroom apartment in Clondalkin, costing €988 per month.
In 2015, they applied to South Dublin County Council for social housing support. At the time, Mr Zabiello was on disability allowance and his wife was unemployed.
They declared the Polish property on their application form and said they received no money for it. They were refused on the basis they had voluntarily gifted the asset to their son.
They were told, if the property had been sold, the money could have assisted towards their housing needs.
With the help of the Cross Care Housing and Welfare Information charity, they got a review of the decision by the council. However, they were told, by disposing of the Polish flat, they had rendered themselves homeless and could not be considered for social housing.
They made a second application in 2018 which was also refused. They then brought a High Court challenge.
On Thursday, Mr Justice Garrett Simons set aside the council’s decision and sent it back for reconsideration. The judge said, even if the couple had got €12,000 from their Polish home, that would only have been sufficient to pay rent in Dublin for between 12 and 18 months.
The logic of the council’s position, if followed through to its conclusion, was that prior ownership of a residential property rendered a household “permanently ineligible” for support irrespective of the value of that property, he said.
This was not a correct interpretation of the relevant Social Housing Assessment Regulations of 2011, he said.
The council, the judge ruled, had acted outside its powers in finding the couple ineligible to apply for social housing support “by dint of their having previously owned a modestly valued property in Poland”. The housing authority had erred both in its interpretation of the regulations and in taking into account irrelevant considerations in determining the application, he held.
Its decision was also invalid in that it did not comply with a statutory duty to set out reasons for its decision.
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