Social Housing Reform Flout's Human Rights

By: Madalena Penny

In a bid to tackle the nations housing shortage, ministers have overlooked directives laid out by the European Convention on Human Rights (EHCR), which could seriously dent their social housing reform policy.

As part of their intended Localism Bill, the government’s reform included fixed-term tenancies applied to new tenants in the social housing sector.  With hopes the reform would be put in place by Summer 2011, new tenants offered homes by social landlords and housing associations would have their financial circumstances reviewed every two years.  Tenants found economically capable of affording housing in the private sector would face losing their social tenancy status and given six months to find alternative housing.

However, in theory, article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights can over-ride the government’s reform.  In a precedented ruling, one tenant took his eviction ruling from his housing association to the Human Rights Commission.  The court had acknowledged Article 8 and found the social landlord had violated their rights and ruled in favour of the tenant.

As stated in Article 8:
’ Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and correspondence.  There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of right except such as in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health and morals, or for the protection of rights and freedoms of others.’

As courts are recognized as a public authority, the article makes plain that they fall under the Human Rights Laws.

The RLA (Residential Landlord Association) have voiced their concern and have asked ministers for clarity on the Article.  As all evictions must be brought before a court, landlords issuing a Notice 21 are automatically granted possession if presented under correct terms.  If, however the Article 8 directive extends to private landlords, it could place the PRS in a vulnerable position.