Sunday, 01 March 2015

Riots prompt changes to fast track eviction plans

Proposals to fast track evictions for anti-social behaviour are to be amended in the light of the rioting this week, the housing minister has confirmed.

In an article setting out his reaction to the riots (see below), Grant Shapps says he will add a question on whether criminal and anti-social behaviour should be grounds for eviction even if it is committed outside the local area to a consultation paper on fast track evictions.

As the law currently stands, tenants on secure or assured tenancies can be evicted if they are found to have been involved in criminal activity in the ‘locality’ of the property in which they live.

Jonathan Hulley, a partner at law firm Clarke Willmott, said this could cause problems for landlords who want to evict tenants that were involved in the riots.

In an article for Inside Housing he says: ‘Care needs to be taken to ensure that only the appropriate cases which fall within the grounds are taken through the courts by councils and housing associations or else they may find themselves liable to pay costs to those who have been involved in this disgraceful behaviour.’

In his article Mr Shapps says: ‘As things currently stand, whilst thuggish behaviour against neighbours or in the immediate vicinity of their home  provides a ground for  evicting a tenant, looting or other criminal activity by tenants further from their homes can’t usually be taken into account. 

‘This cannot be right.  People who commit anti-social behaviour should feel the consequences regardless of whether their actions are taken within the immediate vicinity of their home or further a field.’

Grant Shapps’ article in full

No one could have failed to have been shocked and appalled at the despicable violence and vandalism that has taken place on Britain’s streets this week.  Many of us will have been glued to our television screens, watching the terrible events unfold – some of us will have witnessed it in our own neighbourhoods.  I want to pay tribute to the councils in affected areas who have acted quickly to help those people whose homes and businesses have been destroyed.

The people who rioted and looted must know that there are consequences to their actions, and I am as keen as anyone else to see justice being done.  Since the weekend around 1,000 arrests have been made in London alone, police are going through pictures from CCTV cameras to identify those yet to be caught and courts have been sitting through the night to make sure perpetrators are swiftly brought to book.

So Britain’s fight-back is underway – and not just in the criminal justice system.  I have been heartened by the thousands of residents that have come out in force to clean up their neighbourhoods across the country – from Birmingham to Brixton, and from Liverpool to Lewisham, we’ve made clear that this Government will stand four-square behind these communities in every sense.

That includes where councils themselves want to take action to ensure those who have caused such devastation to their communities face sanctions.  Many will ask why rioters get their benefits from the State when they are not prepared to act like a normal member of society, and I strongly support those councils – such as Greenwich, Southwark and Hammersmith and Fulham – who’ve come out and said they will seek to evict those council tenants who are convicted for their involvement in the riots. 

Most recently, I announced a consultation on plans to speed up the process for evicting persistent ‘neighbours from hell’ from their homes when all other efforts to curb their behaviour have failed.  But I want to go further.  Social housing is a precious resource, and hard-working taxpayers will rightly wonder why anyone involved in trashing and looting should benefit from this.  But as things currently stand, whilst thuggish behaviour against neighbours or in the immediate vicinity of their home  provides a ground for  evicting a tenant, looting or other criminal activity by tenants further from their homes can’t usually be taken into account. 

This cannot be right.  People who commit anti-social behaviour should feel the consequences regardless of whether their actions are taken within the immediate vicinity of their home or further a field.  That’s why I want to add a question to my recently-started consultation, on whether criminality and anti-social behaviour that tenants or members of their family commit outside the immediate neighbourhood should provide a ground for seeking eviction.

This Government has a clear message to the rioters: your one night of madness could have disastrous consequences for the rest of your lives, and for your entire family.  The police and courts are working hard to ensure that perpetrators feel the full force of the law.  I will back those councils who want to back this with action of their own against those tenants who have torn up their own communities and, through those actions, potentially their own social housing tenancy agreements.

Readers' comments (10)

  • Chris Webb

    Nice bluster, but can anyone explain the precedent of such a change in the law being applied retrospectively. If the current batch of rioters are to be covered, the legislation will need to include a clause 'at any time current or previous'.

    Is there a legal mechanism for doing this?

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  • Well better include Tenant in Private Rented Accommodation

    Well better include Home Owners whom own Property

    What go for the goose is good for the gander

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  • Chris

    What about others guilty of violent crime who have been granted a tenancy as part of their resettlement, or committed their crime some time ago and have proven their reform. What will the 'statute of limitation' be for the eviction to be valid?

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  • Joe Halewood

    So, Grant Shapps is now backtracking like crazy after it has been pointed out to him that:-
    (a) his knee-jerk proposal was utter tosh and he knew it
    (b) even if this new ground becomes law it is still not mandatory
    (c) the ground for eviction if it comes in cannot be retrospective
    (d) in general terms Shapps talks political spin that gets press attention despite it having no foundation
    (e) that the jingoistic spin with no chance of doing what Shapps said it would has been taken up by Pickles and by Cameron - thereby making them look even bigger idiots than Shapps himself

    - and

    (f) despite Shapps being found out and proved to be incompetent he will no doubt attempt to re-spin this as the law is wrong and probably adopt the 'phoney' tag that Cameron - aka Hug a Hoodie Call me Dave - did to Human Rights Laws

    Q.) Mr Shapps - Who knocked down the walls of Jericho?

    A.) Mr Shapps - It wasnt me!

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  • Melvin Bone

    What about it Chris? You've put a question mark at the end but it seems more like a statement than a question...

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  • Chris

    Do you not think it relevent Melvin to have clarity as to whether the ban from social housing is for life or not - it is a fundemental point within a free society.

    For instance, is it equitable that someone having served their time and reformation that they may set up a business, stand for election, be in a position of trust, but still remain banned from social housing. Either their actions declare them outlawed or not - half measures will lead to further breaks in society.

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  • McMadman

    There is a wider proportionality issue here. You can't take possession of a private rented flat or "bought" house. So only those in the social rented sector face this penalty.

    Perhaps in the interests of equality we should be able to recover posession of "bought" houses ? A simple amendment to the ASBO law would allow this where a person or family member had been convicted of rioting etc in the locality.

    That way, though the council tenant gets evicted cos their son or daughter thieved a £3.50 case of water and got six months in jail (proportionality ? MP's expenses ?), the case where some solicitor's daughter was nicked for much the same thing would see the same outcome - them homeless too.

    Seems only fair in the sense of balanced and proportionate penalties applying across the piece.

    So, Shapps - what about eviction for owner occupiers ? Simple law change. Why not ? Possibly because tenants don't tend to vote tory ?

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  • Andy Boddington

    I do not believe for a moment that Grant Shapps has a clue what he is talking about. That said, I am appalled by the “can’t do” attitude of social housing professionals as evidenced by comments on this site and in my day to day dealings with them. Whatever the proposal, they find reasons why it cannot be done.

    You come across as a “can’t do” profession. A profession of excuses and inaction. A profession that lives in its own comfort zone as every bit as devoid from the reality of the streets and estates of Britain as most of the politicians of Westminster.

    If politicians are too distant from the real world to lead effectively, why doesn’t the social housing profession bring forward proposals? If Shapps’ proposals on anti social behaviour and criminality won’t work, what will? What are your “can do” proposals, not your “can’t do” excuses?

    Or are you as distant from the reality of dealing with the everyday anti social hell that many of your tenants experience as politicians are?

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  • Bill Pearson

    I am lead to believe that in Holland they evict bad tenants and put them into containers with basic amenities, why not do that in the UK.

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  • Chris

    Andy - there have been many contributions with alternative suggestions posted previously. Whether or not these are individually agreeable or not does not warrent the sector condemnation for complaint. With a government clearly without listening ear and steamrolling an agenda (as governments tend to do) then without change at the top all else becomes moot.

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