Date of the ruling: April 24 2012
Jurisdiction: Council of Europe – European Court of Human Rights
Subject: Violation of Article 8 - Right to respect for private and family life (Article 8-1 - Respect for family life Respect for home Respect for private life) (Conditional); Non-pecuniary damage - finding of violation sufficient; proportionality test; social housing; eviction; tenancy agreements.
The case was brought before the ECtHR by 23 Bulgarian nationals following domestic proceedings where the Supreme Administrative Court upheld the Sofia City Court's ruling. The Applicants, residents of Batalova Vodenitsa, were facing eviction from their homes which the members of their community had built on municipal land. Domestic courts held that a removal order was lawful as the Applicants hadn't established a legal ground for their occupation of the land. The case turned on the facts that the housing, although very basic, constituted the Applicants' homes, that there was no suitable and certain alternative accommodation provided for the Applicants should they be evicted and that the Applicants, being of Roma origin, were a minority group, disadvantaged and vulnerable to discrimination.
On examination, the Court found that the "makeshift houses" of the Applicants, which were built on the land in question, constituted homes for the purpose of Article 8 of the Convention and that the enforcement of the removal order in question would constitute an interference with the Applicants' "private and family life" under the same Article. The Court went on to analyze whether the Respondent's interference was within the prescribed limits of Article 8(2). On this point the Court found that the removal order granted by the district mayor and upheld by the domestic courts did not require for any proportionality test to be carried out nor did it provide any safeguards for the Applicants upon whom it was to be applied; as such it failed to provide for the consideration of whether the order is “necess[ary] in a democratic society”. The Court found that should the removal order be enforced, it would constitute a violation of Article 8.