No Place Like Home: The UK Courts’ Cautious Approach on Applying the
European Convention on Human Rights to English Housing Law
Since the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA)
the rights conferred to individuals under the
European Convent ion on Human Rights (ECHR)
are directly applicable in domestic courts. Incorporation of
these rights into UK law has resulted in challenges to local authority decisions and even in relation to the private
This essay focuse s on how the UK courts have dealt with the broad applicability of human rights challenges to
housing law advocated for by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). It will look at the English courts’
interpretation of a “home” in contrast to that of the ECtHR before analysing the case law in the public sector
concerning Article 8 ECHR and the significance of the proportionality assessment. It will finally, briefly consider
the UK’s position on human rights in private landlord cases to conclude, that whilst some caution is warranted,
the UK courts have been too narrow in their approach.
Article 8 and the “right” to a “home”
hilst there is no explicit “right to housing” under the ECHR, it is often regarded
as a “qualified right”, meaning a public authority has the ability to interfere
where it is in the public interest or that of the wider community.
rights are subject to a proportionality test allowing others’ rights to be balanced against them
to achieve a fair outcome. The most relevant qualified right regarding housing is found in
Article 8 which encompasses the right to respect for private and family life.
The rights under the ECHR have been emphasised by the ECtHR in Strasbourg as being of a
The enactment of the HRA, which incorporated the latter into UK law, was
justified under the umbrella of “bringing rights home”
and illustrated the deliberateness of
Parliament’s intent for these rights to be directly enforceable in domestic courts. The HRA
* LLB with International Legal Studies (Soton)
Human Rights Act 1998.
Convention for the Protecti on of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Eu ropean Convention on Human
Rights, as amended) (ECHR).
Council of Europe European Convention on Human Rights Toolkit, ‘Some Definitions’ <https://www.coe.int/
en/web/echr-toolkit/definitions> accessed 25 June 2020.
ECHR, Article 8.
Bankovic and Others v Belgium App no 52207/99 (ECtHR, 12 December 200 1).
Home Office, Rights Brought Home: The Human Rights Bill (Cm 3782, 1997).