ECHR 089 (2017)

Yevgeniy Zakharov v. Russia (application no. 66610/10), 14.03.17

Principal facts
The applicant, Yevgeniy Zakharov, is a Russian national who was born in 1944 and lives in Kaliningrad (Russia).
Mr Zakharov divorced in 1999 and moved in with his new partner, B. They lived together for the following ten years in one of three rooms in a communal flat under a social tenancy agreement. They never married and Mr Zakharov was not registered as living in the room. When B. died in May 2009, the other occupants of the flat locked Mr Zakharov out and the local housing authority informed him that he had to vacate the room as he had no legal right to occupy it.
He thus instituted court proceedings, claiming that he should be regarded as a member of his deceased partner’s family who had the right to occupy her room. He argued in particular that he had no other housing – since his ex-wife now owned the flat where he had been registered during the previous ten years and lived there with her new family – and had been forced to live in the school where he was working as night watchman.

In May 2010 the first-instance court granted his claim essentially on the ground that he had been cohabiting with B. in the room for ten years. However, the Regional Court quashed that judgment and dismissed his claims, finding that there was no irrefutable proof that B. had let Mr Zakharov live in the room as a family member rather than as a temporary resident. It based this conclusion on the fact that he had been registered as living at his ex-wife’s place of residence throughout the ten years he had been living with B. and had not asked to be removed from the register until after her death.

Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court
Relying on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life and the home), Mr Zakharov complained about having been deprived of his only home after the death of his partner.

Decision of the Court

Mr Zakharov had developed sufficient and continuous links with his deceased partner’s room in the communal flat, having lived there for ten years, for it to be considered his “home” under Article 8 of the Convention. The domestic courts’ refusal to recognise him as his deceased partner’s family member and thus to acknowledge his right to occupy her room had therefore amounted to an interference with his right respect for his home. The Court accepted that that interference had had a legal basis in domestic law (namely, the Housing Code of the Russian Federation of 2004) and pursued the legitimate aim of protecting the local housing authority as the owner of the flat and the rights of persons in need of housing.
However, the Regional Court had failed to balance the competing rights at stake in the case, namely the interests of the occupants of the other two rooms of the communal flat against Mr Zakharov’s right to respect for his home. Indeed, that court had given paramount importance to the fact that Mr Zakharov had been registered as living elsewhere throughout the ten years he had been living with B., without seeking to weigh this against his arguments concerning his need for the room. The Regional Court had thus failed to determine the proportionality of the interference with Mr Zakharov’s right to respect for his home.
The interference with Mr Zakharov’s right to respect for his home had not therefore been “necessary in a democratic society”, in violation of Article 8 of the Convention.
Just satisfaction (Article 41)
The Court held that Russia was to pay Mr Zakharov 5,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

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