Human Rights and Housing
Why Human Rights Matters for Housing
Human rights seek to ensure that people are treated with fairness, respect, equality, dignity and autonomy in their everyday experience of public services.
“where after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory or the farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.” Eleanor Roosevelt
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Law protecting Human Rights:
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948
- European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)
- UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
- UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- The 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol
- The Human Rights Act 1998
- Equality Act 2010
Registered Social Landlords and the Human Rights Act 1998
Registered Social Landlords in Wales are covered by the Human Rights Act 1998 in terms of their functions of a public nature (allocation, management and termination of social housing). This is tied to a landmark case in 2009 (Weaver vs. London and Quadrant Housing Trust) which ruled that the housing provider in question was carrying out public functions, for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998 in the allocation, management and termination of social housing.
It is also important to note that any bodies commissioning and providing health and social care are required to comply with the Human Rights Act 1998.
Identifying relevancy of Human Rights Act 1998 to the work you are doing:
Housing providers’ main contact with the Human Rights Act 1998 will be through the following articles:
- Article 6 (the right to a fair determination of civil rights)
- Article 8 (which includes the right to respect for a home),
- Article 14 (enjoyment of the Convention Rights without discrimination).
- Article1, Protocol 1: the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions and protection of property.
It is important to note that Article 8 does not normally give anyone a right to a home or to any particular form of accommodation but instead contains a right to respect for a home that a person already has.
In housing the different articles are normally engaged in areas relating to homelessness and allocations (in terms of process rather than a right to a home), access and suitability (adaptations and repairs and condition of home), antisocial-behaviour and hate crime (impact on victim due to ineffective response or failure to provide support to perpetrator) and termination of tenancies (evictions etc.) Gypsies and Travellers may also look to engage with the Human Rights Act 1998 when local authorities have failed to meet their needs or they are required to move from an unauthorised site.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission in their Human rights at home – Guidance for social housing providers (2011) has developed a useful list of questions that can help you assess the relevancy of different articles:
“Article 2: Could it lead to a loss of life, or hamper your ability to respond to a threat to life?
Article 3: Could it result in physical or mental harm, gross humiliation or indignity for a person? Could it leave a person in inhuman or degrading conditions? Could it hamper your ability to respond to this treatment by a third person or to investigate allegations of such treatment?
Article 5: Could it result in a restriction on a person’s liberty?
Article 6: Does it involve a decision which might determine a person’s civil rights, such as rights under a contract?
Article 8: Could it undermine a person’s enjoyment of his or her home? Could it interfere with a person’s privacy? Could it lead to sharing of a person’s personal information? Could it interfere with a person’s right to spend time with family members and enjoy family life? Could it damage a person’s reputation? Could it damage a person’s dignity, or physical or mental autonomy? Could it interfere with a person’s correspondence? Could it stop you protecting a person’s home against external interference, such as anti-social behaviour or environmental problems?
Article 9: Could it restrict a person’s ability to practise or live according to his or her religion or beliefs?
Article 10: Could it restrict a person’s expression of ideas, opinions, a person’s artistic expression, or a person’s access to information?
Article 11: Could it restrict a person’s ability to associate with others, to join and leave organisations, or to demonstrate?
Article 14: Could it have a negative impact on some people or groups in relation to an area protected by a Convention Right? Could it distinguish between people on the basis of a personal characteristic, such as gender, disability, or homeless status, in relation to an area protected by a Convention Right?
Article 1 of Protocol 1: Could it result in someone losing their property, or restrict the way in which they enjoy or use it?”
Taking a Human Rights Approach in the work you do:
The NHS Centre for Equality and Human Rights delivered a presentation at a Tai Pawb Equality in Housing Seminar in 2010 that explained how housing providers can develop a Human Rights Approach to the work they do to help:
- Improve the quality of service
- Increase person centred services and care
- Prevent complaints
- Better decision making
- More meaningful engagement
- Human rights at home – Guidance for social housing providers (EHRC, 2011)
- Pre-Action Protocol for Possession Claims by Social Landlords (Ministry of Justice)
Tai Pawb Good Practice Briefings
- Tenancy Breakdowns – Equality Considerations (November 2013)
- Housing’s role in Tackling Hate Incidents and Hate Crime (December 2010)
Websites with further information on Human Rights:
Please note the material in this section is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Tai Pawb is not responsible for the content of external resources.