Court ruling increases housing protection for disabled people


Many disabled social housing tenants should now be protected by the Human Rights Act, thanks to a new court ruling.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which had “intervened” in the case at the court of appeal, described the judgement as a “landmark” decision.
The court found that some registered social landlords – such as those that allocate social housing in a similar way to council housing bodies, or have “a significant reliance on public finance” – should now be treated as public bodies, and so become subject to the Human Rights Act.
These landlords will now have to have regard to a tenant’s human rights – including the right to a private and family life, and the right to a fair trial – when deciding whether to evict them.
John Wadham, the EHRC’s group legal director, said: “As we found in our recent human rights inquiry, where a human rights approach is incorporated into public services, both users and providers benefit.”
The case followed the attempted eviction of a woman from her flat by London and Quadrant Housing Trust for non-payment of rent.
While the high court found the trust had not breached the woman’s human rights, it did find that it was a public authority in its social housing role and so was subject to obligations under the act.
The EHRC intervened in the trust’s subsequent appeal, to argue that registered social landlords should be treated as public authorities in such cases. By a majority of two to one, the court of appeal confirmed the high court’s finding.
The decision means that these social landlords must consider the human rights of a tenant if they want to evict them for failing to pay the rent.
Mike Donnelly, chief executive of Habinteg Housing Association, which focuses on disability, said the ruling may lead to housing associations having to set themselves “clear housing equality objectives”, which he said would be a “major step forward”.
But he said he also feared any possible watering down of the disability equality duty in the government’s new equality bill because “social housing organisations need to be more proactive about disability equality, in their services and their stock, not less”.
A London and Quadrant spokeswoman said no decision had been made yet regarding a possible appeal, but declined to comment further.


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