Entwined Property Laws and Human Rights
Sarah Neild, Professor of Property Law within Southampton Law School at University of Southampton
London based solicitor Sarah Neild, Professor of Property Law within Southampton Law School at the University of Southampton practiced as solicitor in Hong Kong for 12 years prior to moving into academia. She explains about how human rights and property laws are related to each other.
What are some of the salient features of property laws in Hong Kong?
In Hong Kong, unlike property ownership in UK, there is a registration of property transaction. Secondly, the way in which they own the multi-storey buildings is quite different. In fact, the use of co-ownership model is unique to Hong Kong. The land in Hong Kong is not freehold but is given on lease by the government from 99 -120 years or even 999 years depending on when they were originally granted. There are laws in place that enables the citizen to renew the lease when it comes to an end, sometimes by paying an additional premium.
What is the common interface between human rights and property?
Property laws and human rights have a thin borderline between them. The two important aspects are the protection of property and eviction from property. Having a proper process of eviction from a home, falls within the ambit of human rights particularly, if that eviction is by the state. Likewise, human rights instruments protect people’s property from any interference from the state, unless the state can justify it to be in the wider public interest. For example, the residents living near Heathrow Airport in London approached the courts against UK government on the matter of airplane noise interfering in their daily lives and ownership of properties. However, the UK Government defended the action by saying that airport is for larger public interest. The courts agreed with the Government and just allowed time limitations on flights not taking off or landing after midnight to early in the morning.
What is the Secured Transactions Reforms Project?
Trade and commerce rely to a great extent on obtaining finance or credit from others, who require protection against the risk of failure to repay. Our laws relating to such transactions are in need of reform.
The aim of the project is to examine the English law relating to secured transactions and to consider the need and shape of future reform. Many leading practitioners, academics and policymakers are already involved in the project as well as representatives of lenders and other financial institutions. The scope of the project is very broad, covering all types of provision of finance and credit to businesses. Those providing finance require protection against a failure to repay, and against the possible insolvency of debtors. The object of the project is to seek to put the law in this area into an up to date and coherent form, easier and simpler to understand and operate than the existing and (in some cases) somewhat outdated systems.
India and UK share common legal problems which present a lot of opportunities for research and collaboration. Indian and UK legal education systems are different driven by the Bar Council in India and the Solicitor Regulatory Authority in England respectively. Still, we can benefit from our common heritage and help each other by making laws simplified and easier to understand and operate.