Problem tenants are difficult to deal with for landlords; despite the government introducing an exception to the additional protections, a fast-track process for repossession cases featuring antisocial behaviour, the process is still likely to be long and arduous.
Landlords faced with anti-social behaviour need to build-up a record of incidents which affect neighbours and other tenants. Keeping a diary of events, getting hold of witness statements from those affected, plus police reports of criminal activity and police call-outs is that all-important evidence to support such an application to the courts and this takes time.
- What is antisocial behaviour?
Antisocial behaviour is “behaviour by a person which causes, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to persons not of the same household as the person,” it can drive those affected to distraction and cause serious mental distress.
It takes many forms: anti-social behaviour varies in degrees, and this is the difficulty landlords and the courts have, deciding exactly what is and what is not acceptable, and if a warning would be sufficient to curtail the behaviour – the courts are very reluctant to deprive people of their homes.
Common examples of anti-social behaviour range from occasional noisy parties to those on a very regular basis with large number attending, excessive noise from shouting and music, graffiti, refuse littering, vandalism, right through to criminal activities such as drug taking, dealing and prostitution.
- What can landlords do to deal with the problem?
There is not a great deal landlords can do in the short-term once these problems arise, landlords have to trust that the tenants will become sensible and realise the distress they are causing others. But sadly, offenders often don’t see sense or reason, they don’t care if they offend others.
Landlords should note every incident and every contact they have with offending tenants summarising conversations they have with them. They should also start to gather evidence from neighbours and log police reports.
Of course, thorough pre-tenancy references are vital tools in the landlord’s letting process to eliminate bad tenants.
- How to minimising the effects of bad behaviour?
Having properties which have good soundproofing and good insulation is one good way to minimise disruption to others from noisy tenants. Tenancy agreements should contain specific clauses about anti-social behaviour, which can be relied on in court, about noise and other unwanted behaviours.
Tenants causing nuisance or any forms of anti-social behaviour should be given a formal warning in writing, in letters, in letters before action and ultimately a section 8 notice under the Housing Act 1988 before any court action is contemplated.
- Legal liability
Landlords are not obliged to take action against tenants when causing a nuisance to neighbours and are in breach of their tenancy contract, and they are not generally not liable for nuisance tenants. However, if the landlord persistently fails to take all reasonable steps to stop bad behaviour, then the landlord can become partially liable with the tenant.
When landlords are faced with these problems, they should try to involve the local authority housing department as back-up and evidence, and involve the police where necessary.
- What are grounds for eviction for anti-social behaviour
Courts expect landlords to treat eviction as a last resort after all other means of correction have been tried. Landlords with problem tenants should seek legal advice and also consider using the services of an eviction specialist.
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