14:07 PM, 24th February 2011, About 10 years ago 11
The latest Supreme Court case in to tenant rights may mean landlords may not be able to evict tenants who run up rent arrears or behave badly to neighbours.
The court ruled eviction can breach a tenant’s human rights – and denied Hounslow Council the permission to throw out tenant Rebecca Powell despite her owing £3,500 in rent arrears on her council home.
Landlords and lawyers are concerned that tenants will now try and shield deliberate non-payment of rents behind human rights laws.
At this stage, the only cases testing the European Convention on Human Rights relating to the right to ‘respect for a person’s home’ involve tenants in social housing.
The same human rights thinking could also be applied to private tenants – especially those in rent arrears while receiving local housing benefit.
Delivering judgement, Lord Hope said the ‘time had come to accept and apply the jurisprudence of the European court’.
Miss Powell, 23, was given a council home in Cranford, West London, in April 2007. Around 14 months later, Miss Powell, who lives with a partner and four children, owed the council more than £3,500 in unpaid rent.
She could have claimed £15,000 a year in housing benefit to pay the rent, but had not made a proper application.
The council started eviction proceedings, but Miss Powell appealed under the Human Rights Act.
While awaiting the result of court action, the family moved out of their home so the council could pay for renovating the property, then they moved back in.
The human rights thinking is landlords cannot evict tenants under any circumstances if they have not considered where they will live once they leave.
Private landlords with local housing benefit tenants worry that benefit changes later this year that reduce the cash tenants receive from a council to pay their rents could lead to rising arrears problems.
If so, landlords could face subsidising tenants who do not pay the rent out of their own pockets because they cannot evict them.
Is the law completely mad? Don’t landlords have human rights too?
The latest arrears estimates from LSL Property Services, a leading letting agent, puts unpaid rent owed to landlords just for December at £276 million.
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