Malik v Grow Heathrow (reported in The Guardian, 19.07.12)
According to Article 8(2) of the Human Rights Act 1998, public authorities must respect an individual’s right to a home. As a result they must take the welfare needs of trespassers into consideration before issuing possession proceedings.

Until recently this has not been an issue for private landlords, but in Malik v Grow Heathrow, Judge Walden-Smith decided that Article 8(2) could apply even where the landowner is a private individual and the occupiers are trespassers.

Although the landlord obtained an order for possession, it was suspended for six weeks to allow the trespassers to appeal, and the human rights issue has been sent to the Court of Appeal to decide.

How does this affect the private sector?:

  • If the Court of Appeal decides that Article 8(2) applies to private landowners, they may have to comply with the Deputy Prime Minister's 'Guidance on Managing Unauthorised Camping' when evicting trespassers. This will increase the delay and expense involved.
  • At this time private landowners have the ability at common law to use reasonable force to remove trespassers from their land. If the appeal succeeds that ability might disappear.
  • The timing of the decision is interesting. Squatting at residential properties became a criminal offence on 1 September 2012, under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act. Landlords can assume that squatters, who are well-informed about the law, will probably turn their attention from residential to commercial property.
  • Landlords should remember that they have human rights too: Article 1 of Part II the Human Rights Act entitles landlords to the peaceful enjoyment of their property. Perhaps it is time for a landlord to bring their own human rights claim?