Housing is an international human right, but national courts often don’t comply

Do national governments and courts comply with the international human rights, such as the right to housing?

National governments and courts need to comply with international human rights law. Yet, we know that they often do not comply with international law.

For example, the right to housing, as laid down in international and European law, often demands more protection of the power- and propertyless than national laws prescribe.

As a result, national courts are at the centre of the complex interaction between national and international law. In times of growing national resistance towards international law, the questions whether, how, and why international law impacts on national law are among the most topical that legal scholars face.

Why does the EVICT project focus on evictions to understand the tension between international, European and national law?

Evictions provide an exceptional and timely opportunity to determine whether and why international rights, such as the right to housing, have an impact on national law.

First, the right to housing is established in a detailed, but under-theorised, legal framework consisting of international and European housing rights. The past and present crises led to a rapid development of this international framework.

Evictions provide a unique chance to examine the interaction between international human rights law and national law.

Second, on the national level, the crises led to an enormous number of evictions and a vast amount of national case law on those evictions (legal big data). In all of these national cases, the international right to housing could have played a role in judicial decision-making.

The combination of the developed but understudied international right to housing and the vast amount of national data offers a unique chance to examine the interaction between international human rights law and national law.

What theories are used in the EVICT project to study the dynamics between international and national law?

Various theories deployed in contemporary academic legal debates structure the data collection and analysis, acting as explanatory devices for the findings related to the impact, or the lack thereof, of the right to housing on national legal and judicial discourse.

These theories include work on the conceptual differences between public and private law and the horizontal effects of human rights. Other theories that guide the data collection and analysis discuss how the right to housing may impact the traditional property paradigm and vested interests.

Moreover, the EVICT project uses theories concerning the relationship between national sovereignty and international law, the separation of powers, national autonomy, judicial activism, judicial dialogue, and judicial resistance.

Explore the pillars of our research:

Publications on the right to housing and it’s impact on national law

  • Vols, M. (2020). Voortdurend Verhuizen: De Impact Van Het Kinderrechtenverdrag Op Huisuitzettingen In Het Privaat- En Bestuursrecht. NJCM Bulletin. Nederlands Tijdschrift voor de Mensenrechten, 45(1), 3-24.
  • Vols, M. (2019), European law and private evictions: property, proportionality and vulnerable people, European Review of Private Law, 29, pp. 719-752.
  • Bruijn, L. M., Vols, M., & Brouwer, J. G. (2018). Home closure as a weapon in the Dutch war on drugs: Does judicial review function as a safety net? International Journal of Drug Policy, 51, 137-147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.08.003
  • Vols, M., & Fick, S. (2017). Using Eviction to Combat Housing-related Crime and Anti-social Behaviour in South Africa and the Netherlands. The South African Law Journal, 134(2), 327-360.
  • van Tongeren, S., & Vols, M. (2017). The Right to Housing and the Right to a Second Chance: How Dutch Landlords and Local Authorities Facilitate and Frustrate the Successful Reintegration of Ex-Offenders. In M. Vols, & J. Sidoli (Eds.), People and Buildings: Comparative Housing Law (pp. 171-190). (Studies in housing law; Vol. 2). Eleven International Publishing.
  • Vols, M. (2017). Banning criminals and nuisance neighbours from housing: human rights proof? Exclusion and the Dutch Urban Areas Special Measures Bill. In J. Sidoli, M. Vols, & M. Kiehl (Eds.), Regulating the City: Contemporary Urban Housing Law (Vol. 1, pp. 127-143). (Studies in housing law; Vol. 1). Eleven International Publishing.
  • Fick, S., & Vols, M. (2016). Best protection against eviction? A Comparative Analysis of Protection against Evictions in the European Convention on Human Rights and the South African Constitution. European Journal of Comparative Law and Governance, 3(1), 40-69. https://doi.org/10.1163/22134514-00301002
  • Vols, M., Kiehl, M.F. & Sidoli del Ceno, J. (2015), Human rights and protection against eviction in anti-social behaviour cases in the Netherlands and Germany, European Journal of Comparative Law and Governance, 2, pp. 156-180.
  • Vols, M., Tassenaar, P.G. & Jacobs, J.P.A.M. (2015), Dutch Courts and Housing Related Anti-social Behaviour. A first statistical analysis of legal protection against eviction, International Journal of Law in the Built Environment, 7, pp. 148-161
  • Vols, M. (2015). Artikel 8 EVRM en de gedwongen ontruiming van de huurwoning vanwege overlast. WR, tijdschrift voor huurrecht, 2015(2), 55-62. [WR 2015/16].
  • Vols, M., Kiehl, M., & Sidoli del Ceno, J. (2015). Human Rights and Protection against Eviction in Anti-social Behaviour Cases in the Netherlands and Germany. European Journal of Comparative Law and Governance, 2(2), 156-181. https://doi.org/10.1163/22134514-00202000