The right to peaceful enjoyment of property is about giving us the ability to enjoy our property – our property is our own, and no-one should hinder our right to enjoy it… so long as we’re not troubling anybody else.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t include the government taking part of our wages as taxation! Tax is clearly important for maintaining the public services we all rely on, and so a different concept entirely. But back to property; this cannot be taken away from you, apart from cases where this is in the public interest or subject to the law.
To the extent that this right is about the enjoyment of property, and not necessarily about the right of everyone to own property, it may be seen as a less universal right than some of the other articles. Not everybody owns a house. This right, however, covers a whole host of concepts: land, patents, pensions, and particular kinds of welfare benefits. And as our infographic shows, property makes up 33% of the average household wealth of UK individuals, so protecting this right is clearly important.
The right has origins in the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the US Bill of Rights, and is included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was nearly made part of the main body of the ECHR, but instead was later added as a protocol.
It has been applied in a variety of contexts. When the authorities failed to prevent a methane explosion in a dump next to an illegal camp, this breached the property owners’ rights. The right also recognises that it is not simply material goods but also other rights and interests which are ‘assets’. And even businesses are protected: see the case of an Iranian bank, Bank Mellat, when government sanctions against them were disproportionate and breached the businesses’ human rights.