The Supreme Court yesterday dismissed an appeal in which it was argued that, where private sector residential landlords seek to evict their tenant, a court should take account of the tenant’s human rights as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.
In the sad case of McDonald v McDonald, a young woman with mental health problems rented a property from her parents. She subsequently got into financial difficulty and could not pay her rent, which meant that her parents were unable to maintain the loan interest payments on the property.
Consequently, the lender who provided the parents with the money for the property sought to reclaim possession of the house at the end of the period over which the loan had been provided.
After her case was dismissed in the lower courts, the young woman went to the Supreme Court arguing that being required to leave the property breached her right to a private and family life as outlined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Yesterday the judges did not agree with this and rejected the appeal.
“It is sad that it has taken this particular case to clarify this important point of law, but if the appeal had been allowed it would have completely undermined the ability of landlords to reclaim possession of their property at the end of a tenancy,” said David Smith, policy director at the Residential Landlords Association.
“This would have severely damaged the confidence of landlords to rent properties and lenders to provide the funds for the new homes to rent the country needs,” he added.
Also commenting on the case, Lauren Fraser, associate at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, said: “The Supreme Court made it clear that it is not open to tenants to rely on human rights arguments to undermine the existing contractual relationship between the parties. This is especially the case for residential lettings where there is already legislation in place which takes account of the competing interests of private sector landlords and residential tenants.
“Whilst it has been accepted for some time that public authority landlords do need to take account of human rights when seeking possession, this decision will come as a great relief to private sector landlords and mortgage lenders. It will not have a significant impact on tenants as it maintains the status quo and confirms that this line of argument will not be successful in the future.”