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The UK government is set to strengthen landlords’ ability to evict disruptive tenants who engage in anti-social behaviour, according to a new Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan.
The broad reaching action plan, launched by the Prime Minister, aims to tackle the issue of anti-social behaviour in a range of scenarios, which the private rental sector has been included within. It will establish a zero-tolerance approach, and give the police and local authorities the tools they need to tackle the problem.
In addition to being able to evict ill-mannered tenants, the action plan also includes measures to tackle wider issues such as littering, graffiti, and to improve green areas, such as parks and empty shops.
Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, what is it?
Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, emphasises the importance of safety. He states:
“This action plan maps out how we will tackle this issue with the urgency it deserves and stamp out these crimes once and for all – so that wherever you live, you can feel safe in, and proud of your community.”
The plan will introduce “swift and visible justice, increased fines and enhanced drug testing”. Sixteen areas across England and Wales will receive funding to test the new measures, which include hotspot police patrols in areas with high rates of anti-social behaviour, and a new “Immediate Justice” scheme that will deliver punishments promptly.
The Immediate Justice scheme requires those committing anti-social behaviour to start repairing any damage they cause within 48 hours of committing an offence.
The aim is to increase victims’ confidence in the justice system and demonstrate that anti-social behaviour is treated seriously.
Nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” will be banned under the new zero-tolerance approach, to tackle intimidating gangs that litter high streets and parks with canisters of the drug.
Police will be given new powers to crack down on illegal drug use and will expand the range of trigger offences, including crimes to violence against women and girls, serious violence and anti-social behaviour.
This action plan aims to prevent anti-social behaviour from escalating into more serious criminal activity, as it is a major cause why people do not feel safe in their local areas.
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove said:
“Anti-social behaviour erodes local pride, blights our high streets and parks and is a stain on too many communities across the country.
“We know that it is more likely to flourish in areas that have, for too long, been overlooked and undervalued.
“This government was elected on a mandate to deliver change for those communities, and that is why the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan is critical. So we will intervene directly to prevent high street dereliction. We will deliver tougher, quicker and more visible justice to prevent thuggish behaviour in town centres and we will ensure young people have the opportunities and activities available to them to succeed - all backed by new investment.
“This is about acting on the people’s priorities, delivering safer streets so we can level up across the country.”
A new digital platform
Furthermore, a new digital reporting tool will be developed over the next 12 months, to make it easier for people to report incidents of anti-social behaviour.
In the past, people have faced difficulties when trying to report incidents of anti-social behaviour, because of a lack of clarity on how to raise an issue or who to speak to, and a lack of confidence that their report will be taken seriously.
The new reporting tool aims to address these challenges by providing a digital platform where people can quickly and easily report incidents of anti-social behaviour.
The tool will also offer guidance on what to do next and will provide updates on actions taken by local police and councils. It will also help local agencies share information more effectively to prevent future crimes.
What does it mean for landlords?
The move is seen as a compromise to landlords’ fears that abolishing Section 21 evictions will prevent them from removing tenants who terrorise neighbours and other tenants through violent or intimidating behaviour.
The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) approached the government in November 2022 to address the subject of tenants who display anti-social behaviour.
The NRLA has welcomed the government’s commitment to strengthening the ability to evict unruly tenants, with a poll finding that over half of landlords have at some point tried to repossess a property because of a tenant’s anti-social behaviour.
According to the NRLA, 84% of the poll respondents state that they did not receive any help from their local authority, while over 75% landlords had no help from the police when dealing with tenants who displayed anti-social behaviour.
New measures would provide much needed help for landlords in a few different ways. Firstly, it could help improve communication between tenants and landlords regarding issues of anti-social behaviour.
Secondly, with the new reporting tool, tenants could easily report incidents and receive updates on what actions are being taken by local agencies. This could help improve transparency and encourage tenants to report incidents more frequently, which could help to reduce anti-social behaviour long-term.
Additionally, the reporting tool could also help landlords take proactive steps to prevent anti-social behaviour in their properties.
It will also help raise awareness of the importance of reporting incidents of anti-social behaviour, encouraging people to take action when they witness such crimes.
Therefore, by developing the new tool, local authorities will be better equipped to tackle anti-social behaviour and help their communities, ultimately leading to safer neighbourhoods.
Timetable on the Renters Reform Bill
Latest reports state that the Renters Reform Bill is expected to be introduced in two months, having been previously delayed. Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, states:
“We’re bringing forward reforms a little later this year - in a couple of months’ time actually - to see how the private rental sector can be better regulated.
“We’re not talking about rent controls or rent caps but we are talking about protections for tenants.”
Mr Gove then focussed on the Section 21 and its importance on how to help both sides – tenants and landlords. He said:
“At the moment there’s a situation where tenants can be evicted without any fault on their part and some - a tiny minority - of unscrupulous landlords are using the threat of eviction to jack up rents and to victimise tenants.
“So it’s important to recognise … that a healthy private rental sector is absolutely vital to knowing we have the right people with the right homes at the right time.
“So we need to always protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords even as we also give landlords the right to get rid of anti-social tenants.”
News that anti-social tenants can be dealt with effectively and quickly may provide reassurance to landlords given the high level of concern surrounding the removal of Section 21.