Commission welcomes ruling on rights of social housing tenants

04 November 2010

Many social housing tenants will now have greater protection from eviction after a Supreme Court ruling today.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened in the case of Manchester City Council v Pinnock, arguing that under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, where the loss of a person's home is at stake that person should be able to have the proportionality and reasonableness of that decision decided by a court.

The case arose out of possession proceedings against Cleveland Pinnock, who has been a secure tenant of Manchester City Council since 1978.  He has lived in the property with his partner and, from time to time, with some or all of their five children.

In June 2007, his tenancy was demoted by the Council due to the anti social and sometimes criminal behaviour of his adult children, who at that point no longer lived with Mr. Pinnock but would come and visit.  One year later, an eviction notice was served demanding that he vacate the house.

Mr. Pinnock challenged the decision but the eviction notice was upheld by the Court of Appeal. The decision to uphold Mr. Pinnock's eviction was also upheld by the Supreme Court today. However, the Court came to the decision after accepting Mr Pinnock and Commission's argument that where a court is asked to make an order for possession of a person’s home, the court must assess the proportionality of making the order, and resolve any disputed facts. This sets an important precedent that will afford vulnerable social housing tenants more protection from eviction in the future.

In their judgment, the Supreme Court said the Commission's arguments were well made to the effect that proportionality is more likely to be a relevant issue in respect of occupants who are vulnerable as a result of mental illness, physical or learning disability, poor health or frailty, and that the issue may also require the local authority to explain why they are not securing alternative accommodation in such cases.

The Court also said that if domestic law justifies an outright order for possession, the effect of Article 8 may, albeit in exceptional circumstances, justify granting an extended period of possession, suspending the order for possession, or even refusing an order altogether.

The Court determined that the same principles applied to registered social landlords as local authorities, but they did not apply to private landlords. 

John Wadham, Group Director Legal, at the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:

'The most basic human right is respect for one's home. Today's judgment does not prevent social landlords from evicting a tenant, as we have seen by the outcome in Mr. Pinnock's particular set of circumstances. What it does mean is that such decisions will not be taken lightly - tenants will have the right to have the reasonableness and proportionality of that decision heard by the courts.'

For more information about human rights, see our human rights section.
For more information about Article 8, see Respect for your private and family life.

Ends

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Notes to Editors

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights states:

  1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his  home and his correspondence.
  2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the  exercise of this right except such as is 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 or  morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission.  It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain.  It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights.  The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex, sexual orientation, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act.  It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.