Antisocial behaviour (ASB) can cause neighbourhood misery. For problems such as loud music late at night affecting neighbours and other people living in the property, it can feel like they are living a nightmare that never ends.
Baroness Newlove is a leading advocate of victims of antisocial behaviour. Her husband was kicked to death on their doorstep following a campaign of violent antisocial behaviour. This is an extreme incident, but while antisocial behaviour is often dismissed as petty crime, it can be very serious for those affected.
Landlords are sometimes slow to deal with antisocial behaviour from tenants. If the tenant is paying their rent on time, it’s easier to ignore the problem than risk provoking the tenant. It’s important to recognise the impact antisocial behaviour can have on other tenants and people living near the property.
ASB can destroy livelihoods, impact relationships, cause mental health issues, and leave victims feeling powerless and ignored.
Are Landlords Legally Responsible for ASB tenants?
Private landlords are not legally responsible for the bad behaviour of their tenants.
Responsible landlords have a duty of care to their tenants. It is a landlord’s responsibility to make sure tenants are not being disruptive and causing problems. Turning a blind eye to ASB problems puts you on the radar of local authority housing inspectors. It also causes bad feelings among neighbours.
This is especially important if you manage HMOs. Shared housing is particularly vulnerable to antisocial behaviour problems. It isn’t easy dealing with this type of tenant, but wilfully ignoring problems is not the answer. There is help out there, as we’ll discuss below.
Type of Antisocial Behaviour
To a degree, what constitutes antisocial behaviour is subjective. To one neighbour, loud music on a Friday night is annoying, but to another, it’s an excuse to pop over and join in the fun!
The following are broad examples of antisocial behaviour.
- Loud music
- Hosting parties
- Excessive noise, e.g. shouting, screaming, or a TV playing at a high volume
- Excessive rubbish
- Car engine noise
- Vehicles inappropriately parked
- Abusive and threatening behaviour
- Racist and homophobic abuse
- Allowing feral children to run wild
All of this affects landlords when it takes place in or outside their property.
Dealing with Antisocial Behaviour
If tenants are causing problems, you might not be aware there is an issue until you hear from the council or police. Neighbours might not know who the landlord is, but if you are a registered landlord, the council can contact you.
Landlords have a duty of care to deal with complaints from neighbours or other people living in the property. Turning a blind eye and suggesting it’s not your problem won’t do.
The council and police will try and work with you to prevent the issue from escalating. They might ask the tenant to agree to an acceptable behaviour contract or mediation services to avoid eviction. If you do need to evict the tenant, the council can help you with this.
Talking to the Tenant
Always take complaints seriously. Do not assume people are making it up or trying to spread malicious rumours.
In the first instance, speak to accused tenant to see what they have to say in defence. They might be apologetic, unrepentant, or even surprised, depending on the circumstances. Often, a quiet word is enough to resolve the problem if it’s caused by a simple misunderstanding.
Next, talk to the other parties involved and try to form your own opinion of what’s going on.
Remember that there are two sides to every story. It’s not unheard of for one tenant to complain about another purely to cause trouble, so speak to other people to verify the claims. Ask neighbours if they are aware of any problems. Look for physical evidence such as piles of empty spirits bottles if the tenant is accused of heavy drinking.
Carry out your own checks to see how bad the problem is. Visit the property if neighbours are complaining of loud music to verify their claims. If every Friday and Saturday night there are noise complaints, ask the tenant to video it or visit the property yourself at that time. Councils usually advice complainants to keep noise diaries and other evidence.
Look for patterns in case problems are linked to visitors or a tenant’s shift patterns.
Issuing a Written Warning
If speaking to the tenant hasn’t solved the problem, your next step is to give them a written warning. Explain as simply as possible that unless they clean up their act, they will be evicted. Draw their attention to the clause in the tenancy agreement that prohibits antisocial behaviour.
Evicting the Tenant
There will be times when you have no choice but to evict the tenant. It’s not an ideal situation because the tenant will likely quit paying their rent once they have been issued with an eviction notice. If they are refusing to cooperate, there isn’t much else you can do other than remove them from the property.
If you have sufficient evidence of antisocial behaviour, you can issue a Section 8 notice, using Ground 14 – nuisance and antisocial behaviour. The tenant can ask the court to halt the eviction if you use a discretionary ground, but they must show they are taking legitimate steps to resolve the problem. If the level of their antisocial behaviour has been significant, it is unlikely the court will agree to this.
A section 21 notice is a no-fault eviction. Use this if you don’t have enough evidence to prove the tenant is guilty of antisocial behaviour. If the tenancy is near the end, it’s probably better to go with a Section 21, as it’s an easier process.
Seeking Help for ASB Issues
The police and local authorities have been given extensive powers to deal with antisocial behaviour, in accordance with the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
Frontline professionals are advised to follow a number of steps to try and resolve issues. These include:
- A verbal or written warning
- A community resolution – this is an option in less serious or low-level offences and can be used for first-time youth or adult offenders
- Mediation – bringing all parties together (if they are willing) can sometimes resolve a problem
- Acceptable Behaviour Contracts/Agreements – a written agreement by a perpetrator may be enough to stop a problem before it escalates
- Parenting contracts – this is used when the perpetrators are 17 and under and parents/guardians are part of the issue
- Support and counselling – dealing with the underlying cause, such as substance misuse, may help to stop the antisocial behaviour
If the above fails to work, civil injunctions can be issued under Sections 1-21 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime, and Policing Act 2014. Breaches of the injunction are treated as contempt of court and punishable by time in prison for adults, supervision orders/curfews/detention for under 18s, and unlimited fines.
A criminal behaviour order is the next step for persistent offenders and tenants engaged in criminal activity. Over 18s can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Preventing Antisocial Behaviour
Prevention is better than trying to deal with antisocial behaviour after the fact. The best way to avoid taking on a tenant likely to cause problems is by vetting any applicants thoroughly.
- Pay close attention to references from previous landlords.
- Make a point of letting the tenant know at check-in that you won’t tolerate antisocial behaviour.
- Draw their attention to the relevant clause when you give them a tenancy agreement.
- Remind the tenant what counts as antisocial behaviour and that it includes upsetting the neighbours and their fellow housemates.
At the first sign of a problem, speak to the tenant and warn them of the consequences if they don’t change their behaviour.
What Happens When Landlords Ignore ASB?
Ignoring antisocial behaviour is a really bad idea. Tenants who indulge in this kind of behaviour are often problematic in other ways. A tenant who doesn’t care about upsetting the neighbours or dumping rubbish everywhere is not going to take good care of your property.
The council and police won’t stand by and do nothing if a tenant continues with their campaign of antisocial behaviour. If you ignore the problem and don’t do anything to try and resolve it, the council and police have the power to apply for a Premises Closure Order.
What is a Premises Closure Order?
In 2014, the police and councils were given new powers to deal with properties associated with public nuisance and disorder complaints. A Premises Closure Order (PCO) lets the council and police close premises being used by someone to commit antisocial behaviour. The preliminary closure notice lasts for 48-hours while the police and council apply to the magistrate’s court for a closure order. If successful, a closure order lasts for three months.
The Premises Closure Order will remain in place even after the tenant leaves, this means your rental property is empty without generating any income for three months. Your landlord licence could be revoked (if applicable).
If your property is the subject of a PCO, it’s a good idea to seek legal advice. An experienced housing solicitor can appeal on your behalf and check whether the order has been correctly issued.
The long-term financial implications of a PCO are clear. Any sensible landlord is advised to do all they can to prevent things from reaching this stage.
Sometimes the problem isn’t legitimate tenants – it’s illegal squatters who have moved into an empty property and are causing mayhem. Squatters live in the fringes of society. They are often involved with illegal drugs, fly tipping, and cause a lot of damage to the property they move into.
Act fast if a neighbour notifies you that squatters have moved in. You can’t go round and threaten squatters to leave. Instead, you will need to apply for an Interim Possession Order at the local country court once 28 days have passed. Once you get confirmation of the IPO, hand over the relevant documents to the squatters within 48-hours.
Once you have an IPO, squatters must vacate the property within 24-hours or face prison.
Note that this does not apply to former tenants who have refused to leave.
All of this sorry mess can be avoided if you take appropriate steps to prevent and resolve antisocial behaviour from your tenants. Act fast, and don’t stick your head in the sand, hoping this awful situation will go away. It won’t!
Have you had to deal with antisocial behaviour from your tenants? Let us know; we’d love to hear more about your experiences of ASB. You can get in touch via social media. Look for us on Facebook or Twitter. We will reply to any messages and comments, and if your story is unsettling, we might add it to this blog post!
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