UK must allow satellite dishes

There are many thousands of UK residents who – at least so far – have been forbidden to have satellite dishes because of restrictive covenants on their homes or apartments. People living in so called ‘conservation areas’ and listed buildings are particularly limited in what they may fix to their homes. Those restrictions may now have been deemed illegal by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

A test case (23883/06) where Swedish tenants were evicted because of their use of a satellite dish has been ruled as a violation of the applicant’s human rights under Article 10 (Freedom of Expression) in that they were not allowed to receive satellite signals.  The Court ruling has effectively established that the possession and use of a satellite dish for the purposes of exercising one’s right to freedom of information is a human right.

The case, brought by Swedish tenants, has found in favour of the tenants – who are of Iraqi origin – and who had taken their government to court after being evicted by their landlord after installing a dish.  The Court ordered that €13,950 be paid to the tenants as compensation.

Importantly, the ruling shows that even if the applicants were technically in breach of their tenancy, the right to information is superior to the landlord’s right to enforce the contract.

UK Housing Minister Grant Shapps said the decision could drive a ‘coach and horses’ through planning and similar legislation. The decision seems to rule that landlords – which includes local authorities – can no longer ban the use of satellite dishes.

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