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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Human rights and the home

The decisions of the Supreme Court in the cases of Pinnock and Powell in 2010 and 2011 opened up the possibility of using a human rights argument when advising clients faced with possession action.

Following these judgments a court can now look at whether the making of a possession order is proportional in all of the circumstances of the case. This entails a court looking at whether the landlord/owner’s legitimate right to the property under domestic housing law is outweighed by the special circumstances of the occupant e.g. that they are at risk of losing their home, that they have vulnerabilities.

Who can use a human rights argument?

An examination of the proportionality of the actions of the landlord/owner can be raised by the defendant (the occupant) in possession proceedings where a court cannot normally, under domestic law, look at the facts of the case. This could, for example, apply in cases where the occupant:

  • Is an introductory tenant;
  • Is an illegal occupant;
  • Has been occupying the property with a tenant who has since died, but they have no right to succeed under the succession rules.

So far, human rights arguments have focussed on social landlords. However, there is a growing body of case law which looks at how human rights can be used in relation to private landlords and owner occupiers.

Human rights in practice

Housing Rights Service is increasingly using a human rights argument, not just in defending possession proceedings at a court stage, but also when seeking legal aid to defend an action and when advocating on behalf of clients prior to possession proceedings being initiated.

Equipping you with human rights knowledge

Housing Rights Service is holding a training seminar on Human Rights and the Home on 22nd October where we will be covering how to use human rights on a day to day basis on behalf of clients. Find out more and book online here.

‘Right to a Home Campaign’

Focus Ireland (Republic of Ireland) is currently running a campaign to put a ‘Right to a Home’ into the Irish Constitution. They believe that its inclusion in the Constitution would assist people who are homeless and those worried about losing their homes due to mortgage/rent arrears or debt. 

Tagged In

Repossession, Case law

This article was written on 8 October 2013. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.