No Article 8 Defence for Assured Shorthold Tenants

In a landmark ruling on 15 June 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that an Article 8 defence is not available to tenants to defend possession claims under assured shorthold tenancies.

Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights provides that everyone has the right to respect for his home. There has been some doubt as to whether tenants can use Article 8 to defend claims for possession made under Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.

The facts in McDonald v McDonald were straightforward. The landlord served a Section 21 Notice and subsequently issued possession proceedings. The Defendant filed a defence on the basis that a possession order would amount to a violation of her rights under Article 8. The County Court Judge made a possession order, the Court of Appeal dismissed the tenant’s appeal and the Supreme Court has now dismissed a further appeal by the tenant.

The Supreme Court’s reasoning was that parliament had decided where the appropriate balance was to be struck between the interest of landlords and tenants in the Housing Act 1988 and had concluded that a mandatory ground for possession under Section 21 was appropriate. The purpose of the European Convention was to protect citizens from having their rights infringed by the state, not to alter private contractual rights.

The unanimous decision of the Supreme Court puts this issue beyond doubt and will be welcome news to landlords throughout the country.   

(McDonald v McDonald)