Human rights and rent control / security of tenure

Article 1 of protocol number 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides that every person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. Any deprivation must be in the public interest. A state can also enforce laws controlling the use of public property provided they are in the general interest. In the present case, Maltese legislation granting security of tenure and controlling the rent payable by tenants amounted to an unjustified infringement of the applicant’s rights under article 1 of protocol number 1.

In Amateo Gauci v Malta ((2011) 52 E.H.R.R. 25) the applicant’s father had granted a 25 year lease of property. The applicant inherited the property from his father and mother. Malta introduced legislation that meant that the tenant’s rights to possession would continue indefinitely (and could be inherited). The rent payable was subject to controls that meant that the rent was far below the market rent. The applicant argued that the legislation amounted to an unjustified interference with the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions found in article 1 of protocol 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights. States could pass this type of legislation in the general interest but must not impose an excessive burden on the individual. The legislation must not be manifestly unreasonable because, for example, it allows the landlord only a minimal profit. Here, the applicant had been subjected to a compulsory landlord and tenant relationship. The legislation did not adequately take account of the landlord’s possible needs for the property nor of the fact that the tenant owned other property.

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