Landmark case about tenants’ human rights - what does it mean?

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A landmark case has just been decided that tested the boundaries of tenants’ human rights. In this month’s column, Alex Byard explains what it means for landlords.

Last month, the Supreme Court was asked to consider if a possession order granted to a private landlord was in breach of his tenant’s human rights.

The case of Macdonald v McDonald hung on Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Right, which provides that everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and correspondence. It goes on to say no public authority can interfere in this right, unless for reasons of national security and is backed up by The Human Rights Act 1988 that makes it unlawful for an organisation to act in any way that is incompatible with the convention.

I am sure all owners of rented property will be pleased to hear the court agreed the landlord was not constrained by the European Convention. Any other decision would have opened the floodgates to Human Right claims by disgruntled tenants.

This case arose when the landlord discovered his mortgage terms did not permit a tenancy to be granted on his property, so he served a section 21 notice advising possession was required.

A County Court then granted a possession order, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal. Still unhappy with the decision, the tenant applied to the Supreme Court claiming her human rights had been breached.

The court had to balance the tenant’s rights under Article 8 against the landlord’s rights under Article 1 of the European Convention that allows for peaceful enjoyment of possessions. It concluded serving a section 21 notice could not be classed as disproportionate interference in terms of the legislation as it stands.

This case draws clear distinctions between private and public sector tenancies, but regardless, if you need to serve notice on a tenant, always seek legal advice to ensure it is carried out correctly.

Alex Byard is a specialist in property litigation at Sheffield’s Taylor&Emmet LLP. For more information, telephone (0114) 218 4000, visit www.tayloremmet.co.uk and www.landlorddisputes.co.uk or follow the firm on Twitter @te_propertylaw.