Housing rights branded ‘inadequate and insufficient’ in light of High Court ruling

Rebecca Keatinge

Rebecca Keatinge

Housing protections in Ireland are “inadequate and insufficient”, Mercy Law Resource Centre (MLRC) has said in the wake of a High Court ruling that reaffirmed there is “no express constitutional right” to housing in Ireland.

In a recent case, Mr Justice Max Barrett rejected an application from an elderly woman seeking to overturn an eviction order from the landlord, who wanted their son to move into the property instead.

Part of the woman’s submissions argued that there is a constitutional right to housing that supersedes the Residential Tenancies Acts.

However, Mr Justice Barrett said there is “no express constitutional right to universal provision of housing by the State”.

He added that a court might, in a future case, find that some unqualified, unenumerated “and as yet unrecognised” constitutional right to accommodation/housing exists as a matter of Irish law.

Responding to the case, Rebecca Keatinge, acting managing solicitor at Mercy Law Resource Centre, told Irish Legal News that existing legal protections for tenants were “inadequate and insufficient”.

She said: “MLRC continues to call for protection of the right to housing in the Constitution. The protections as they stand are inadequate and insufficient. In legal cases taken on behalf of our vulnerable homeless clients, we cannot rely on any express right to housing.

“We must instead rely on infringements of other Constitutional rights including for example the right to fair procedures and the new protections of the rights of children. We also rely on the European Convention on Human Rights which places positive obligations on States in relation to housing rights.

“However, these protections are not sufficiently explicit or robust.”

The resource centre provides free legal advice and representation to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in the areas of social housing and social welfare law.

Ms Keatinge added: “A right to housing in the Constitution would not mean a right to a key to a home for all.

“A Constitutional right would however put in place a basic floor of protection. It would require the State, in its decisions and policies, to reasonably protect the right. It would recognise that a home is central to the dignity and possibility of every person.

“Such a right is recognised in Europe in the Constitutions of Belgium, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, and in the legislation of Austria, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom. Around the world, the right to housing is included in eighty-one Constitutions. If protected in our Constitution, recognition of the right to housing would be a major step towards protecting people who are facing the crisis of homelessness.”