Harrow London Borough Council v Qazi [2003] UKHL 43

Housing – human rights – proceedings for possession

 

Residential premises which a former tenant continued to occupy after his joint tenancy had been terminated by the other joint tenant and in which he no longer had any legal or equitable right to remain were his “home” within the meaning of art 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.

 

However, proceedings brought against him by local authority landlords in exercise of their unqualified right to possession under domestic law did not infringe his “right to respect for his home” under the article, and accordingly did not require justification under art 8(2).

 

The House of Lords held that the key to a proper understanding of the issues lay in appreciating that art 8 regarded a person’s home as an aspect of his right to privacy; the emphasis being on his home as a place where he was entitled to be free from arbitrary interference by public authorities. Art 8(1) was not concerned with the right to peaceful enjoyment of his home as a possession or as a property right – such rights were protected by art 1 of the First Protocol.

 

The concept of “home” in art 8 was not limited to premises which were lawfully occupied or established. “Home” was an autonomous concept, not dependent on domestic law classification. Whether a particular habitation was a “home” depended on the factual circumstances, namely the existence of sufficient and continuous links. There was no doubt here that the premises satisfied that test.

 

However, art 8 could not be relied on to defeat contractual and proprietary rights to possession. Since the application of domestic law enabled the housing authority to exercise an unqualified right to recover possession on proof of entitlement, when the notice to quit expired, since it was clear at the outset of the tenancy that it could be so terminated and since the premises, once recovered, were available for letting to others in need of housing in the authority’s area, any interference with the defendant’s right under art 8(1) by ordering possession did not infringe art 8 and accordingly no question arose under art 8(2)

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