Everybody needs good neighbours?

Having accomplished that rarest of feat – surviving as Housing Minister for more than a year – Grant Shapps has now turned his attention to tackling the plight of nuisance neighbours.

Mr Shapps is quoted in the Guardian, saying that ”the process for tackling neighbours from hell takes too long” and  proposes “a series of trigger offences that can be taken into account if a tenant behaves in a persistently anti-social manner”.

These  are:

  • A conviction for a serious offence related to housing, including violence against neighbours, drug dealing and criminal damage.
  • Breach of an injunction for anti-social behaviour obtained by a landlord.
  • Closing of a premises under a closure order. This could be where a property has been used for drug dealing.

Shapps goes on to say:

“All too often, efforts to tackle neighbours from hell take far too long, and it seems the needs and rights of the victims play second fiddle to those of the perpetrators”.

Surely this is great news, only last week the latest NLA Quarterly Survey demonstrated that 21 percent of landlords have experienced anti-social behaviour by tenants in some form – up 2 percent on the first quarter of 2011.

The problem is, Mr Shapps statements so far seems to be concentrating on  the plight of social landlords.

Details are yet to materialise, but it looks like social landlords are to benefit from new mandatory grounds for possession.

Private landlords have long experienced problems relying on discretionary ‘Ground 14’ designed to tackle ASB.

Currently this means that private landlords must ensure there is sufficient evidence to satisfy a judge that ASB is taking place, in circumstances where those affected are likely to feel very uneasy about giving evidence against their troublesome, and potentially violent, neighbours.

If social landlords are alone granted this new power, it will be very interesting to see what happens to that 21 percent figure. As it stands to reason that evicted ‘nuisance’ social tenants will have to relocate somewhere, and rent from someone.

Here’s hoping that Mr Shapps and his colleagues plan to strengthen the hands of all landlords dealing with disruptive tenants regardless of tenure. So that we don’t see a rapid rise in ASB complaints as problem tenants are transplanted from social housing to the private sector.

UPDATE: Happily the proposals are tenure neutral meaning that private landlords will have access. The new powers will not take the form of a ‘possession ground’ or amendments to Ground 14. Instead the proposal is for a “new, clearly defined route to possession for serious housing related anti-social behaviour which has already been proven by another court”.

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To make sure that you’re not caught out it is a good idea to get as much information about your prospective tenants as possible by obtaining thorough references from previous landlords, or perhaps even employing a professional referencing agency

One thought on “Everybody needs good neighbours?

  1. In my experience local authorities are very willing to support landlords who have tenants with ASB problems, particularly where they are affecting those who live around them. Regardless of legislation ASB is often a community problem and therefore it is in everyones interest to deal with the issues regardless of tenure. I have recent personal experience of a really serious ASB problem with one of my tenants and I only became aware of the issues when the local ASB department contacted me. It transpired that the police had been called 19 times in a few months and the tenant was refusing help from the ASB staff. I was warned that, as the landlord, I could be facing presecution by the local authority. All the neighbours had my contact details but they had contacted neither me nor the managing agent of the site preferring to call the police. When I spoke to the neighbours after the tenant had left they said that they didn’t think that anyone but the police could solve the problem!
    Working with the ASB unit and the police solved the problem, the tenant realised that she was outnumbered and left long before my Section 21 notice required her to do so. I could not find out her new address but I did find out the area that she had moved to and I told both the police and the ASB unit of the local authority what she had done while living in my property to make sure that the new landlord was informed as soon as the behaviour began again as I knew it would.

    Landlords do not ALLOW the legislation to exclude you.

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