Finally, Some Relief for Residential Landlords
After a six year sojourn through the judicial system, the highest court in the land has finally confirmed that the eviction of a tenant by a private landlord on the expiry of an AST does not amount to a breach of the tenant’s human rights. (McDonald v McDonald ).
Article 8 of the much maligned European Convention on Human Rights states that,
everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence
On this basis Ms McDonald, the tenant of a house owned by her parents but which had been repossessed by the lender, sought to resist section 21 possession proceedings on the basis that forcing her to leave her home amounted to an infringement of her human rights. Ms McDonald was something of a special case, having to contend with the affects of an emotionally unstable personality disorder.
That notwithstanding, the Supreme Court, having first consulted the jurisprudence of its Strasbourg brethren, decided that the Convention was intended to regulate relations between citizens and their government; not to interfere with the ordinary contractual relationship between one citizen and another. The Court emphasised that the balance of the contractual rights and responsibilities between a private landlord and their tenant had been enshrined in legislation passed by a democratically elected government. As such, Article 8 could have no application to alter that arrangement.
The relief for private landlords is not shared by the public sector however. Landlords such as local authorities, housing associations and other public bodies are vulnerable to claims brought under section 8, meaning that it can prove very difficult for them to evict their tenants. Mrs May’s stated intention to scrap the Human Rights Act, and with it the application of the European Convention in UK domestic law, can’t come soon enough for public sector landlords.