Human rights laws could stop tenant evictions

by Sarah Ashcroft

Evicting tenants may become harder for landlords, following a ruling by the Supreme Court. Evicting tenants who fail to pay their rent or commit anti-social behaviour could be a breach of their human rights, the highest court in the country has said.

Although the case concerned a social tenant and landlord, the ruling could have implications for landlords in the private rented sector. The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) warns that there is a second case coming up soon involving a private tenant, who is relying on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to prevent their eviction.

In the case ruled on by the Supreme Court, Hounslow Council bosses had tried to evict tenant Rebecca Powell after she racked up more than £3,500 in rent arrears.

Upholding her assertion that evicting her was a breach of her human rights, the court left open the question about whether the same principle could apply to the private rented sector.

Currently, landlords in the private rented sector are able to begin eviction proceedings based on a tenant breaching the terms of their contract if they fall into arrears on their rent by two months, explains Richard Jones, solicitor for the RLA.

Once a tenancy has ended, landlords are able to evict using Section 21, known as the "no fault notice only" ground for possession, he adds.

"However, recent rulings by the Supreme Court raise the very real prospect now that it could become all but impossible to evict a tenant given the lack of clarity over what proportionate action would look like," Mr Jones says.

"I am aware of at least one case where a private tenant is relying on Article 8 to try to avoid eviction which has gone to the Appeal Court. We are waiting to see what happens in this case.

"Even if this does not go ahead, another is going to come along and the question is going to have to be dealt with sooner or later."

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Published on: April 18, 2012

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