ECtHR and Social Housing-Two Recent Judgements

Happi v France 9/4/15 (judgement in French only)

Mr H lives with his family in unsatisfactory and hazardous accommodation in Paris. On 28/12/10, Paris’ Administrative Court ordered the Ile-de-France authority to provide the family with urgent accommodation. This was followed by a further decision on 31/1/12 ordering the authority to pay a fine and to invest the sum of EUR 8400 in urban development.

Mr H complained to the ECtHR that the State had delayed in complying with the 28/12/10 judgement, in contravention of his Article 6 rights. The Government’s response (para.46) was that there was an acute shortage of accommodation that prevented it from complying with the judgement and that its investment in urban development was an effective measure to enable it to comply.

The Court rejected the Government’s argument and noted that the money it had invested in no way compensated Mr H directly. The State could not plead a lack of resources to absolve it from complying with a Court judgement (para.50) and the Court found a violation of Art.6.

Botezatu v Republic of Moldova 14/4/15

Mr B and his family were the beneficiaries of a court judgement dated 4/11/2004 obliging the local municipality to provide them with social housing. On 2/8/11, Mr B began further proceedings to enforce that judgement and on 29/2/12, an appeal court accepted that there had been an unacceptable delay from 11/5/05 to 30/11/11, that Mr B’s Article 6 rights had been violated and awarded him non-pecuniary damages of EUR 2270. The court dismissed Mr B’s claim for pecuniary damage for the rent he had paid for temporary accommodation while he was waiting to be re-housed (roughly EUR 8000) on the grounds that the relevant leases were invalid. On 8/8/12 Mr B was issued with a voucher entitling him to move to a new flat.

The question for the ECtHR was whether Mr B was entitled to reimbursement of the rent he had paid over the 6 year period. While noting that the domestic courts were in a better position to assess quantum, the Court could intervene where there was a clear error in assessment. The Court concluded that Mr B must have suffered bona fide losses despite the goverment’s argument about the validity of the lease agreements and awarded Mr B EUR 9461 in pecuniary damages.

Comment

While the ECtHR had interesting things to say about resources and quantum in these cases, it is significant that the Court’s findings were limited to Article 6 and losses flowing from breaches of Court orders (rather than Article 8). The question whether, for example, unlawful gatekeeping might permit a claim for damages under the Convention will have to wait for another case.

 

About SJM

SJM is partner and head of the housing and public law department at Miles and Partners LLP, based in London E1.
Posted in Allocation, Homeless, Housing law - All, Social tenancies.

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