Important clarification from the Court on the obligations of housing authorities

12 March 2020

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Press Release

Important clarification from the Court on the obligations of housing authorities

FLAC welcomes the Judgment of Mr Justice MacGrath in the High Court today 12.03.2020  concerning the obligations of housing authorities to process housing applications within the statutory time limits prescribed.

The case, in which FLAC acted for the Applicants, concerned an older couple suffering from various health conditions and who had been rendered homeless since 2018. They made an application for social housing supports in January 2019. Having received no response to their application they applied to the Courts seeking to challenge the effective refusal of the Council to make a decision on their housing application.

South Dublin County Council defended the proceedings on the basis that the couple had made an earlier application for housing in 2017 that was still in being and the couple could not make a further application. It was argued that the Council had sought information from the couple in January 2018, regarding their eligibility for social housing supports and that once that information was provided their housing application could be considered. The information sought by the Council was evidence of 52 weeks employment in the State which the applicants did not have and were not likely to have in light of their health circumstances.

In coming to its decision the Court considered the statutory regime involved and took into account that the Housing Acts address the important social objective of assisting the homeless and those without or in need of social housing. The Judge commented that it was not surprising that time limits appears frequently in legislation where the need for reasonably immediate action will be obvious. MacGrath J went on to note that the obligation on a housing authority “to deal with” a housing application under the relevant regulations was one that requires the local authority to either accept or refuse the application, and that the only clarification that can be sought from an applicant must be for the purpose of verifying information relating to that application.

In relation to the stated request for information in January 2018, the Judge considered that this was the deferral of a decision by the local authority, but even if this was not the case, this did not preclude the applicants from making a fresh application in their changed circumstances, namely where their health had deteriorated and they had become homeless. Having made the fresh application it was the obligation of the local authority to address it in accordance with its statutory obligations, whereas the housing authority’s view of their obligations would allow them to defer a decision on a housing application indefinitely.

Eilis Barry, CE of FLAC in welcoming the judgment stated:

“This is an important judgment, and while it addresses the technical requirements of the housing assessment regulations and the proper interpretation of same, the Court also emphasises that this is in the context of the social remedial nature of the Housing Acts, and that the relationship between a housing authority and an applicant can be changing and evolving. FLAC supports this view that housing legislation must be responsive to the needs of members of the public as they evolve, and that an applicant for social housing supports should not have their application deferred indefinitely as the local authority purported to do in this case.”



Caroline Smith, FLAC Media & Communications Officer 01 8873600 / 086-2618543

E mail:

Address: FLAC, 85/86 Dorset Street Upper, Dublin 1

t: 01-887 3600 @flacireland w:


Notes to editor:

FLAC is a human rights organisation which exists to promote equal access to justice. As an NGO, FLAC relies on a combination of statutory funding, contributions from the legal professions and donations from individuals and grant-making foundations to support its work.

FLAC offers basic legal information through its telephone information line (1890 350 250) and free legal advice through its network of volunteer evening advice centres – more at  

FLAC is an Independent Law Centre that takes on cases where this is in the public interest. FLAC also campaigns on a range of issues, including consumer credit, personal debt, fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid. FLAC operates the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA), which seeks to engage the legal community and civil society in using the law to advance social change. 


Section 20 (2) of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009 states:

(2) Where a household applies for social housing support, the housing authority concerned shall, subject to and in accordance with regulations made for the purposes of this section, carry out an assessment (in this Act referred to as a “ social housing assessment ”) of the household’s eligibility, and need for, social housing support for the purposes of determining—

(a) whether the household is qualified for such support, and

(b) the most appropriate form of any such support.


Regulation 12 of the Housing Assessment Regulations 2011 (S.I. 84/2011) provides:

12. (1) Subject to proper completion of the application form by the household and to paragraph (2), the housing authority of application shall deal with the application within a period of 12 weeks of receipt or, where the authority has requested additional information for the purpose of verifying information relating to the application, within 6 weeks of the receipt of such additional information.

(2) Subject to paragraph (4), where the housing authority of application is unable to deal with an application within the relevant period specified in paragraph (1), the authority shall, before the expiration of the period concerned, notify the household accordingly, specifying the reason therefor and the further period within which the authority expects to deal with the application.

(3) Subject to paragraph (4), a housing authority of application may, where necessary and for stated reasons, extend the further period referred to in paragraph (2) and shall notify the household accordingly.

(4) Any extension to a period granted by a housing authority under paragraph (2) or (3) shall expire on or before the effluxion of 14 weeks following the expiry of the relevant period referred to in paragraph (1).