Oxford

Witney woman loses 'landmark' human rights bid

A tenant with psychiatric problems who argued her human rights were breached when her home was threatened with possession has had her appeal dismissed by the Supreme Court.

Fiona McDonald's lawyers argued that it was not a proportionate response to the circumstances she faced.

Her home in Witney, Oxfordshire, was bought for her by her parents but they failed to meet mortgage payments.

Human rights laws don't apply in claims between private parties, judges ruled.

Mark Routley, head of property litigation at law firm TLT said: "Today's judgment has been on the watch list across the property and financial services sectors and beyond because it raised for the first time the prospect of expanding the use of the Human Rights Act into litigation between private individuals.

"Had the case succeeded, it would likely have been a deterrent to investment in the buy-to-let mortgage market and in property generally."

Mr Routley added: "However, the Supreme Court has made it clear that provided a private landlord complies with the relevant regulations in the Housing Act, the court must order possession.

"It is not for the court to apply its discretion and decide whether granting the possession order is proportionate in the circumstances."

'Financial difficulties'

He added that where the landlord was a public authority, it was already established that the Human Rights Act does apply.

In a written ruling, Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger and deputy president Lady Hale said: "Sadly [Ms McDonald] has had psychiatric and behavioural problems since she was five.

"An experienced psychiatrist explained in his expert evidence that she had 'an emotionally unstable personality disorder and at times when her mental state has deteriorated she has presented with frank psychotic symptoms'."

They outlined how the 45-year-old's parents decided to buy her a property using a loan - for which she paid them rent - but they encountered financial difficulties with their business and were unable to keep up with the payments.

Ms McDonald was served with a possession notice in 2012.

A year later a judge at Oxford County Court ruled it was not required to consider the proportionality of making an order for possession against a residential occupier.

She later lost a challenge at the Court of Appeal before taking the case to the UK's highest court.

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