Buy to let court decision confirms landlords' right to reclaim possession

The Supreme Court has ruled that rights to a private and family life need not get in the way of legitimate cases where agents, landlords and mortgage lenders need to reclaim possession of a rented home. 

The court has ruled that whilst the right to a private and family life - enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights - applies in relation to so called ’no fault’ possession claims, Parliament has already legislated to ensure that this cannot frustrate landlords and lenders with legitimate reasons to reclaim possession. 

In the case of McDonald v McDonald, a daughter with mental health problems rented a property from her parents. Having got into financial difficulty they were unable to maintain the loan interest payments on the property. 

Consequently the lender who provided the parents with the money for the property sought to reclaim possession of the house at the end of the period over which the loan had been provided.

After her case was dismissed in the lower courts, the daughter went to the Supreme Court arguing that being required to leave the property breached her right to a private and family life as outlined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The judges did not agree with this and rejected the appeal.

“It is sad that it has taken this particular case to clarify this important point of law, but if the appeal had been allowed it would have completely undermined the ability of landlords to reclaim possession of their property at the end of a tenancy” claims Residential Landlords’ Association policy director David Smith. 

“It could have opened the door to those tenants who might seek to make false accusations to remain in a property. This would have severely damaged the confidence of landlords to rent properties and lenders to provide the funds for the new homes to rent the country needs” he says.

Lauren Fraser, an associate at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, says the decision makes it clear that it is not open to tenants to rely on human rights arguments to undermine the existing contractual relationship involving landlords and/or agents. 

“This is especially the case for residential lettings where there is already legislation in place which takes account of the competing interests of private sector landlords and residential tenants” she says.

“Whilst it has been accepted for some time that public authority landlords do need to take account of human rights when seeking possession, this decision will come as a great relief to private sector landlords and mortgage lenders. It will not have a significant impact on tenants as it maintains the status quo and confirms that this line of argument will not be successful in the future” Fraser adds.


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