Possession orders and human rights

Hounslow LBC v Powell ([2011] 2 WLR 287, SC(E)) concerned possession proceedings brought by local authorities. One case concerned a licensee of a dwelling house whose licence had been granted under the Housing Act 1996 on the basis that she was homeless. The Council sought possession on the basis that she was in arrears with the rent. The other two cases concerned ‘introductory tenants’ under the same statute. The Councils sought possession based on the anti-social behaviourof the tenants. The English Supreme Court had to consider the application of article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms to the possession proceedings.

Article 8  provides that:

‘Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.’ Any interference with this right must be justified as being ‘necessary in a democratic society.’

Drawing on its own decision in Manchester City Council v Pinnock ([2010] 3 WLR 1441, SC (E)) the Supreme Court held that a person in lawful occupation had to be informed of the reasons for seeking possession so as to be able to consider a proportionality review. The court dealing with the proceedings only had to consider the proportionality challenge if it was raised by the occupier and the court was persuaded that the proportionality issue was seriously arguable.

The reasons for which possession was sought would be proportionate where they either (i) vindicated the local authority’s ownership rights; or (ii) enabled the local authority to comply with its public duties to comply with its public duties in relation to the allocation and management of its housing stock.

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