Wednesday, 3 October 2018

The first workshop in the EU Economic Governance and the Charter of Fundamental Rights Project took place on Friday, 28th September 2018 in Galway. The workshop was attended by participant/experts from all over Europe and opened by the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly. The project is organised by Dr Padraic Kenna of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy NUI Galway,  and funded by Open Society Initiative for Europe.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Pictured in August 2018 are (L to R) Deirdre Halloran, B.Sc., BCL, LLM, Legal Researcher at CHLRP; Alan Sheerins, B.Sc., G.I. Biol, LLM Researcher at CHLRP; Prof Héctor Simón Moreno, Visiting Professor, UNESCO Housing Chair, Universitat Rovira I Virgili Tarragona, Spain, on a Spanish Government placement in CHLRP; Dr Charles O’Mahony, Head of School of Law; Núria Lambea Llop, LLM, PhD Researcher (Spain), based at CHLRP for Summer 2018 and Dr Padraic Kenna, Director, Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy.

Monday, 23 July 2018

The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, opened the “First Thoughts” segment at this year’s Galway Arts Festival. In this speech, the President reflected on the idea of “Home” - the core theme of this year’s festival - and commended the work of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy. "This university is fortunate I believe to host the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy Research, whose work is so critical to enhancing our understanding of the housing system here in Ireland, and its complex relationship with international and European financial and monetary policy developments. The Centre is home to scholars who provide a comprehensive understanding of the role of housing, so may I quote Dr. Padraic Kenna, ‘[h]ousing addresses the basic need for human shelter, but also facilitates the essential human requirement for home’. I am obliged not to stray any further into the detail of housing policy in Ireland, not only for constitutional reasons but also because I am aware that Catriona has assembled an excellent panel to discuss housing this evening. I do, however, wish to make two more general observations at the level of principle." The full text of his speech is available here or watch the speech below:

Monday, 18 June 2018

Dr Padraic Kenna was a speaker at Summer School of UNESCO Cátedra de Vivienda de la Universidad Rovira i Virgili at Valls, Catalonia - “La vivienda colaborativa y el entorno urbano: retos, oportunidades y amenazas” - in June 2018. The Summer School examined new developments in housing rights and policy discourse, such as blockchain technology, cohousing, condo-hotels, urban regeneration and ‘crowdfunding’ of housing initiatives. Photo shows speakers and attendees from a range of organisations, lawyers, registrars and public authorities.

Friday, 8 June 2018

A meeting of the FEANTSA Expert Group on Housing Rights recently took place in at Cáritas Española, Madrid. The FEANTSA Expert Group on Housing Rights was set up in 2003 by Dr Padraic Kenna and others engaged on housing rights advocacy across Europe.  See website for more info  https://www.feantsa.org/en/membership

Thursday, 31 May 2018

‌‌‌Pictured are Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice President for Research NUI Galway; Donal Mac Fhearraigh, Senior Program Officer at Open Society Initiative for Europe; Dr Padraic Kenna, Director, Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy, School of Law, NUI Galway, and Deirdre Halloran, Legal Researcher at the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy NUI Galway at the launch of the two year research project on EU Institutional Governance and Charter of Fundamental Rights funded by Open Society Initiative for Europe.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Since 2015, FEANTSA and the Fondation Abbé Pierre have released a yearly Overview of Housing Exclusion in Europe. These annual reports look at the latest Eurostat data (EU-SILC) and assess EU countries' capacity to adequately house their populations. The 2018 version reveals how millions of Europeans face housing exclusion on a daily basis as well as a dramatic picture of increasing homelessness across most of the EU – in particular amongst children, women and migrants. Full Report: English and French Chapter 3 on Housing Rights in Europe: English You can find more information at  http://www.feantsa.org/en/report/2018/03/21/the-second-overview-of-housing-exclusion-in-europe-2017

Monday, 12 March 2018

ECB directed home possessions in Ireland is undermining human rights. ECB places home loan debtors in vulnerable situations at risk of home loss with no legal representation. ECB directions show no respect for Irish courts. ** The report  is available to download here: Access to Justice and the ECB** A detailed study of 100 Courts Lists and 2,400 cases of home possession in December 2017 and January 2018 indicates that ECB direct supervision of mortgage institutions in Ireland shows no respect for the human rights law or access to justice. Access to Justice and the ECB, a research report by the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway, shows that some 70% of home loan debtors have no recorded legal representation in mortgage possession cases.  Two thirds of those defending the actions of ECB directly supervised lenders had no legal reprersentation.  A small number of people (7%) are forced to represent themselves.  In Ireland, ECB directly supervised banks include Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank, Ulster Bank and PTSB. The report draws on Central Bank research showing that 40% of bank and 70% of ‘vulture fund’ cases result in home possession orders. ‌‌“Access to justice for all is core to the rule of law,” Dr. Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy said. “However, today in Ireland, we have a situation whereby home loan debtors are pitched against the legal resources ECB directed corporations, often in what appears like a David versus Goliath encounter. This is creating unprecedented pressure on Irish courts, which have relatively small numbers of judges. “Irish Circuit Court Judges and Registrars make valiant efforts to explain procedures, processes and even the meaning of legal terms to people who are at best anxious and nervous, and at worst suffering from serious illness, disorientated and emotionally vulnerable and fragile,” he continued. “This research raises important systemic questions in relation to access to justice in Irish courts in mortgage repossession or home loss cases. It also raises important questions as to whether the ECB, as an EU institution, directly supervising the entities instigating these legal actions, is actively and knowingly undermining EU law, especially consumer and human rights law. Access to justice for home loan debtors has never been more important, but sadly, also never so inequitable, unfair and unattainable.” Since 2014, the main euro-area banks have been supervised directly by the ECB in Frankfurt in relation to macro- and micro-prudential rules and capital requirements under the Single Supervisory Mechanism. European Banking Authority and ECB guidance on dealing with mortgage arrears suggest a range of options, but this is largely ignored by ECB supervised entities in Ireland. Dr Kenna pointed to the Irish tracker mortgage scandal, where over 33,000 mortgage consumers were overcharged and which resulted in at least 100 households losing their homes. This has already highlighted the systemic failure of the ECB and the Central Bank of Ireland to effectively promote EU consumer rights, he said. “The Irish tracker mortgage scandal reports reveals that many people experienced wrongful, court approved loss of home,” “This report demonstrates that with the absence of legal representation in two-thirds of ECB directed mortgage arrears cases, it is likley that similar wrongful evictions will take place, with unknown consequences for the households involved.” There are over 30,000 mortgages in arrears for over two years in Ireland, putting these households at far greater risk of losing their homes. Central Bank research shows that those in long-term mortgage arrears are more likely to be single parent (women) borrowers with three or more children; have lower net incomes and have higher mortgage debt service ratios. EU law obliges courts to assess the fairness of mortgage terms under the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive.  They should also assess the human rights impact of an eviction on all occupants in the home – including children, older people and people with disabilities – under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. ECB directly supervised lenders are piling possession cases into Irish courts,  and are not providing sufficient information for Irish courts to carry out “own motion assessments” for unfair contract terms in mortgages, the report finds. He said that there is a systemic non-application of relevant EU consumer and human rights law, in these proceedings, largely directed by ECB supervised entities. Furthermore, as Irish public bodies, the Central Bank of Ireland, the nationalised banks, and other State agencies involved in the home loss/ possession cases have a “public sector duty” to protect human rights under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014. Dr Padraic Kenna presenting the Report Access to Justice and the ECB at NUI Galway  For more information contact: Dr Padraic Kenna at padraic.kenna@nuigalway.ie Read the full press release and case studies here: Access to Justice Press Release The report has been covered in The Irish Times, Irish Examiner and Irish Legal News.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

NUI Galway Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy is publishing a new, user-friendly Guide to help thousands of Irish families in mortgage distress, and facing unfair evictions to understand and advocate for their rights, using vital EU consumer and human rights law. The Guide, 'Your EU Consumer and Human Rights: A Guide for People in Mortgage Distress in Ireland', published jointly with Open Society Foundations' Abusive Lending Practices Project, is also essential reading for people improperly denied tracker mortgages, or those who have been given incorrect interest calculations. ** The Guide is available to download here: A Guide for People in Mortgage Distress in Ireland ** ‌Dr Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway, and one of the authors of the report, says: "Our Guide sets out simply and clearly how existing EU law should be routinely applied to determine, firstly, whether a mortgage contract term is fair and, secondly, whether a possession or eviction notice is a proportional response to any breach of a mortgage term. By applying these EU laws, Irish courts and lawyers can really assist their clients and vulnerable defendants."The authors have stressed that the Guide is for information purposes only. It does not provide legal advice, and is not a substitute for consulting a lawyer. They suggest, within the Guide, that people share it with their solicitors. They also acknowledge, however, that a high number of people facing possession are unrepresented, due to the shortage of free and low cost legal services.The Guide has been created as part of the Open Society Foundations' Abusive Lending Practices Project, in conjunction with the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway, and a group of Irish lawyers and advocates.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Dr Padraic Kenna, of the School of Law and the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy, NUIG spoke at the launch of a report on Mortgage Arrears among South Mayo MABS clients in Castlebar, Co Mayo in December 2017. The report "Mortgage Arrears Among South Mayo MABS’ Clients: April 2016 v September 2017" follows the original report which looked in detail at the personal situations of those at the centre of the mortgage arrears crisis. This shines a light into how these households have fared some 18 months later. Although some progress has been made in addressing the mortgage arrears crisis, the number of accounts in arrears for over two years remains high in the sample group (50 households). Dr  Kenna said: “It shows that the most destructive effects of the banking crisis are, in fact, still being exacted on ordinary households. This study makes a very valuable contribution to the public interest in addressing this ongoing challenge”. Read more about the launch and download the reports via the Citizens Information Board.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

 Council of Europe finds that Ireland violated the European Social Charter the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection.The Council of Europe has today upheld a Collective Complaint that Ireland has violated Article 16 of the European Social Charter on the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection. Adequate housing is viewed as an integral element of this right.The Council of Europe held that Ireland failed to take sufficient and timely measures to ensure the right to housing of an adequate standard for a significant number of families living in local authority housing, and therefore there is a violation of Article 16 of the Charter in this respect.This Collective Complaint was facilitated by the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway, working in association with local tenants groups in the main cities, law centres and Non-Government Organisations, involved the submission of detailed evidence of housing conditions on local authority estates, with associated human rights standards. Some 90% of the estimated 130,000 Irish local authority tenant households live on estates.Dr Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway today welcomed this landmark decision, saying: "We have been working with tenants groups, law centres, national and international human rights agencies, over the past five years. Our students at the University researched the European human rights norms. This decision marks a significant historical development, which could enhance the development of Irish State housing policy."The Irish State does not support any national organisation of its tenants, who could be consulted or participate in framing legislation or housing policy, unlike almost every other European country. There was no opportunity, within Ireland, for these tenants to have the collective issues examined in any systematic way. They could submit this European Complaint only through other organisations. Many issues faced by Irish local authority tenants could be resolved by tenants associations.Dr Kenna added: "Of course, nothing in this complaint was intended to diminish respect for the valuable and dedicated work of national and local authority housing professionals, or the committed work of voluntary and community groups and public representatives, who work tirelessly to improve the situation of local authority tenants in Ireland. This issue is more complex. State housing in Ireland generates a surplus after maintenance costs are deducted from rents. A recent report from the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC) shows that local authorities generated a surplus of €40 million in 2014, from their housing, used to cross-subsidise other services."The Council of Europe noted that complete statistics on the condition of local authority housing have not been collated since 2002. It also noted that a significant number of regeneration programmes have not been completed, leaving many local authority tenants in unacceptable housing conditions.Significantly, housing standards for 30,000 tenants of approved housing bodies are now regulated by the Residential Tenancies Board, but there is no such regulation of State tenancies. Indeed, the State is both the landlord and the regulator on housing standards in local authority housing.The Irish State must report to the Council of Europe within 12 months on how it has addressed this violation.The full decision and a summary is available at: https://www.coe.int/en/web/turin-european-social-charter/-/the-decision-on-the-merits-of-the-complaint-fidh-v-ireland-is-now-public

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dr Padraic Kenna was Project Director and lead author of this study which focuses on the protection of the right to housing in EU countries and in particular on evictions from primary residences. It provides an overview and analysis of available data and trends regarding housing evictions, and establishes the reasons for and impacts of eviction. The report focuses in particular on the link between eviction and homelessness. It also reviews the measures put in place by Member States to prevent evictions and enable early interventions. In addition, the study suggests ways to improve data collection and monitoring of evictions. On the basis of this research and analysis, a number of recommendations are suggested to promote protection of the right to housing and homelessness prevention in the context of evictions.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The School of Law, NUI Galway hosted a highly successful international conference entitled ‘The Future is Now! - eConveyancing and Title Registration at the Galway Bay Hotel, Salthill, Galway on the 7th and 8th April 2017. The conference brought together national and international experts from around the world in the area of eConveyancing and title registration. The conference was chaired by the Honourable Miss Justice Mary Laffoy of the Supreme Court and Mr. Justice Michael Peart of the Court of Appeal. Keynote speaker was Professor J.C.W. Wylie, Irish expert in land and conveyancing law. Pictured at the conference were, from left, Dr Padraic Kenna, NUI Galway School of Law, conference organiser, Sandra Murphy, NUI Galway School of Law, conference organiser, Professor J.C.W. Wylie, Keynote Speaker and Peter McGarvey, Solicitor, RDJ, conference sponsors.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Dr Padraic Kenna of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy had an op ed in the Irish Times of 23 February on a new bill to provide human rights protections in home reposession cases.  The Keeping People in their Homes Bill 2017 was presented for the First Reading by Kevin Moran TD on Thursday 24th February 2017. The Bill provides Irish courts with a statutory base to effectively conduct proportionality assessments in possession orders related to mortgages arrears. Read more: Text of the Bill: Keeping People in their Homes Bill 2017 Explanatory Memorandum: Keeping People in their Homes Bill 2017 Memorandum

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The end of the Irish lending boom has left many individuals and families with unsustainable levels of personal debt.  The Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy (CHLRP) together with the ICELand the Open Society Justice Initiative has organised a series of seminars to examine how the Unfair Contract Terms in Consumer Contracts Directive (UCTD) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights might assist borrowers in debt related proceedings.  Based on the UCTD and the Charter, the CJEU has been developing the law in this area, which can be applied by the Irish courts. Speakers Marguerite Angelari, Senior Attorney, Open Society Justice Initiative – The debtor as a consumer, an overview of the key provisions of the UCTD and relevant case law Dr Padraic Kenna, NUI Galway –The key role of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in debt cases Gary Fitzgerald BL, Director of the ICEL – Getting to the European courts, the role of the preliminary reference procedure in debt litigation Madeleine Thornton, Solicitor– Putting this into practice – protecting consumer rights Seminars have taken place in Dublin on 10th November,  2016, Galway on 25th November, 2016 and Cork on 7th December. Upcoming Seminars: Limerick - 22nd February 2017 Waterford - 23rd March 2017 For details and papers see the ICEL website.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Dr Padraic Kenna has an article in this month's Law Society Gazette on the impact of the Unfair Contract Terms Directive in Ireland. Padraic was also cited in the Sunday Business Post on inconsistency in the recent ECB opinions on repossession laws: Home debt law stalled to protect vulture sales (Sunday Business Post, 9 Sept 2018) Who will bell the cat? (Law Society Gazette, Aug/Sept 2018)