Tackling tenant anti-social behaviour

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has released its proposal on how the organisation feels tenant anti-social behaviour should be handled, once Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions are stopped.

For those unfamiliar with the issues surrounding tenant anti-social behaviour, and what the options are for landlords at present, the NRLA summarised both the possible avenues that can be pursued and the actual reality of anti-social tenants, their victims and the landlords and agents having to resolve the problem.

Tenant anti-social behaviour – the picture to date

Citing data from the government’s own “English Private Landlord Survey 2021”, the NRLA makes the point that of tenancies that are brought to an end by a landlord or letting agent, 32% were because of tenant anti-social behaviour.

So, this gives the context to the scale of the problem. With that backdrop, the organisation outlines the reality of how landlords can handle this issue.

The recourse for a landlord or agent is either:

  1. Serving a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice, which comes with 2 months’ notice of the tenancy ending (can be served after the fixed term of the tenancy has passed, or during a tenancy with no fixed end date – a ‘periodic tenancy’)
  2. Serve a Section 8 eviction notice using either:
    1. Ground 7a (mandatory): “Serious anti-social behaviour”, which states the tenant has broken the terms of the tenancy agreement and is subject to 4 weeks’ notice (periodic tenancy) or 1 months’ notice (fixed term tenancy)
    2. Ground 14 (discretionary): “Nuisance/annoyance, illegal/immoral use of property” which carries no notice period, and as the government website stipulates, “proceedings may be commenced immediately after service of notice”.

Which eviction route is most common with tenant anti-social behaviour?

The NRLA highlights that, whilst the notice period is shorter with Section 8 evictions, with the discretionary Ground 14 there is no guarantee the landlord will be granted possession of the property.

When serving a mandatory Section 8 notice of eviction using Ground 7a, possession will be guaranteed, but it can only be used when the accused tenant has:

  1. committed and been convicted of a serious crime
  2. breached an Anti-Social Behaviour Injunction obtained under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014
  3. breached a Criminal Behaviour Order obtained under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014
  4. been convicted of a breach of a notice or order to reduce their noise in relation to the tenant's property under the Environmental Protection Act 1990
  5. has had their property closed under a closure order obtained under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 and closure is continuous for at least 48 hours.

But Ground 7a cannot be used if any of the above is in the process of being appealed.

Another key issue around evictions being served to a tenant accused of anti-social behaviour is that it can be very hard to secure evidence from witnesses.

Imagine you are living in the same property (as in the case of a house of multiple occupancy/HMO) or next door to someone who is being unbearably antisocial. It can be intimidating, you may be fearful of that person, you may even fear a confrontation or altercation if you are a victim.

This means that in many instances, the victim(s) will move out of an HMO, and the perpetrator will render the vacant unit impossible to re-let.

Similarly, if you as the landlord issue the notice, or even if the agent does so, an accusation intent on getting the tenant out of a property will rarely go down well, risking rent being unpaid, damage to the property, confrontation or other unpleasantness.

For this reason, landlords often use a Section 21 ‘no-fault’ eviction, rather than endure the pain of the above.

The proposal from the NRLA

The NRLA shares serious concern on the proposals of the Rental Reform whitepaper to address this issue.

Whilst discretionary and mandatory possession grounds are planned to be retained, and the notice period for Ground 7a is planned to be reduced – both positive – the association feels that this doesn’t fundamentally help landlords.

The NRLA have said that, for the most part, landlords will still be unable to use Ground 7a without significantly greater involvement from the police or local council.

This triggers further problems. Two sources of research into tenant anti-social behaviour showed that just 26% of instances were reported to the police and of those only 41% were satisfied with the outcome (Source: The Tony Blair Institute). Furthermore, victims of anti-social behaviour suffer further, because the police and local council don’t take reports seriously enough (Source: the Victims Commissioner).

Therefore, the NRLA feel that the following measures are ‘essential’:

  • local authorities and the police report annually on their work in addressing statutory nuisance and anti-social behaviour.
  • Local authorities and the police check the planned landlord portal when taking action to address anti-social behaviour. They must notify the landlord where they have taken such action. Any notification of action should be considered strong evidence that possession is justified in anti-social behaviour cases.
  • where any of the requirements of the current Ground 7a have been met, it must be mandatory to inform the landlord and support them with appropriate action to remove the offender from the property to protect neighbours and potential fellow tenants.
  • Statutory guidance must be published for the judiciary covering ‘low level’ anti-social behaviour and when it would be reasonable to grant possession in cases involving it.
  • Where landlords have evidence that a tenant’s notice was served because of the behaviour of another tenant, this must be taken seriously in the statutory guidance.
  • Anti-social behaviour hearings should be prioritised by the courts, with possession orders as a result enforced swiftly afterwards. With that in mind, where a possession order is granted for ASB landlords should automatically have the option to transfer up to the high court so that possession can be dealt with quickly and effectively.

(Source: NRLA.org.uk)

The removal of Section 21 is a primary cause for concern for landlords amongst the rental reforms, so it must be hoped that the NRLA will be listened to.