ECHR says no to arbitrary eviction

Tuesday 21 September 2010

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David Watkinson has secured victory for tenants facing eviction as the European Court of Human Rights ruled today that it is for the courts and not local authorities to decide when eviction can be permitted.

Kay and Ors v UK (Application no. 37341/06)

The European Court of Human Rights today gave judgment in Kay and Ors v UK, which is now its most recent statement on the effects of Article 8 of the European Convention (right to respect for private and family life and the home) on housing possession cases. The Court found that there had been a violation of Article 8 and awarded damages and costs. The Court restated the principle that "the loss of one's home is the most extreme form of interference with the right to respect for the home. Any person at risk of an interference of this magnitude should in principle be able to have the proportionality of the measure determined by an independent tribunal in light of the relevant principles with Article 8 notwithstanding that, under domestic law, his right to occupation has come to an end."

The Court rejected the UK courts' approach that it was sufficient for the Court to consider whether the public authority bringing the proceedings had made an error of law which would have been challengeable on the same grounds as in judicial review (although it welcomed the UK courts' tendency to develop and expand those grounds). In three successive House of Lords cases, including Kay, the highest UK courts have maintained that position. It remains to be seen whether that will change in similar cases awaiting judgment and hearing in the Supreme Court.

In the meantime, the applicants in Kay who have lived since about 1980 in "short life" property which had been compulsorily purchased as unfit for human habitation, and who were evicted after one of their number brought disrepair proceedings against the housing trust to whom the local authority had let the properties, have at least the satisfaction of a judgment in their favour.

For the full judgment, click here.

The applicants were represented by David Watkinson of the Garden Court Chambers Housing Team. David was instructed by David Thomas of Hartnells Solicitors, London.

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