European Convention on Human Rights

Article 8 Of The European Convention On Human Rights and Private Tenancy

The question - Whether Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights can be a defence against possession claims in private tenancies? – was under the consideration of the Supreme Court in the case McDonald v. McDonald [2016] and the court answered in the negative.

Background

The Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights deals with the right to respect for private and family life. Post the judgments of the Supreme Court in the cases Manchester City Council v Pinnock [2011]and Hounslow London Borough Council v Powell [2011], Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights has become a defence against possession proceedings in public tenancies. And whether the Article 8 defence extended to private tenancies too was deliberated upon by the court in McDonald v. McDonald.

The Supreme Court’s View

According to the court, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights cannot be used to vitiate the contractual relationship between the landlord and the tenant as laws dealing with the interests of both the tenants and landlords have already been legislated.

The court feels that since the legislature has enacted laws to maintain a balance between Article 8 (European Convention on Human Rights) rights of the tenant and landlord’s rights as per Article 1 of the Protocol No.1 to the European Convention on Human Rights, there is no need for the courts to further get involved and determine the proportionality of actions taken by landlords in pursuance of possession.

Further, the court observed that the Protection from Eviction Act, 1977 and the Housing Act, 1980, are sufficient to protect the interests of the tenants.

Impact

The prudence that the Supreme Court displayed while delivering this verdict is indisputable. Allowing Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to be a defence against possession in private tenancies would have led to unnecessary detriments to the landlords in many ways. Firstly, as mentioned by the Supreme Court, when the legislature has already designed the laws in a manner which would be fair to both the tenants and the landlords, further accrual of rights to tenants would have caused an imbalance in their favour and therefore, would have been unjust to the landlords. Secondly, the Article 8 defence, had it been granted, would have resulted in delays in procession proceedings and thereby causing harm to the landlords. Thirdly, such delays would have dissuaded new players from entering the rental market, which would have been followed a shortage of properties available for rent. Thus, the decision of the Supreme Court in McDonald v. McDonald has proven to be a boon not just for the landlords, but also for the society in general.