Friday, 31 October 2014

ASB laws may lengthen process of evicting tenants

A lawyer has told a select committee about her concerns it will take longer for landlords to evict tenants with reforms to anti-social behaviour laws.

The Home Affairs committee heard evidence from a number of housing professionals yesterday on changes to the powers available to landlords to tackle ASB.

In May 2012, home secretary Theresa May unveiled plans to reduce 19 current powers to six and introduce a community trigger to require action to be taken on persistent problems.

Although housing professionals broadly agreed with the reforms, Jane Plant, a lawyer specialising in ASB cases, said the mandatory power could mean it will take longer to evict people.

‘Our main concern surrounds the mandatory grounds for possession,’ she said. ‘We do welcome the extension of the injunction to those under 18: ASBOs, as effective as I think they have been, are costly and do take a long time now.

‘I think the current legislation is working well, the anti-social behaviour injunction is effective. From the Law Society’s point of view our written submission has been related to and criticising whether the new power of possession is necessary.’

Gavin Smart, director of policy and practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said he liked the new draft legislation because it ‘strengthens the tools that are available’.

But he added: ‘It’s a tricky judgement but once other routes have been explored then you end up at eviction. The question is, what do you do with the families that have been evicted?’

Mr Smart also explained the case of Fiona Pilkington, who killed herself and her daughter in 2007 following years of harassment, had ‘brought into sharp focus’ the need for work to tackle the pattern of persistent low level ASB.

Kevin Williamson, head of communities and well-being at the National Housing Federation, said: ‘The purpose [of the new legislation] is not to increase the number of people evicted but to speed up the process.’

Eamon Lynch, managing director of the Social Landlords Crime and Nuisance Group, said: ‘There are some welcome advances and improvements [in the new legislation] and there’s a general acceptance that over 15 years of evolution of these tools and powers, that taking stock is useful.’

The government also published a consultation paper on proposals to introduce a new mandatory power of possession in August 2011, which will enable landlords to take swifter action to evict their most anti-social tenants.

Readers' comments (31)

  • Andy Boddington

    It needs to be easier to evict bad tenants. Antisocial behaviour corrodes communities and undermines the neighbour’s wellbeing. That just grows more problems.

    I have personal experience of this. Our street has been transformed after an anti-social couple left. (They moved days before a court hearing for eviction.) People say how nice it is here now and our community strength is growing.

    The problem that many housing professionals have is that they have no perspective of communities and how to strengthen them. If they did, they would realise why it is so important to have strong powers to evict.

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  • Maurice Condie

    I must agree with Andy. I know of courts not allowing possession even on proven mandatory grounds when it has been demonstrated that the tenant is not only dealing drugs, but keeping dangerous dogs against the terms of the tenancy.

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  • Agreed. Granting mandatory grounds does not ensure eviction, the current system is slow and people's quality of lives suffer in the meantime.

    Even on mandatory grounds, they aren't throwing these people out overnight, and many landlords are often willing to postpone such action if the tenant ceases ASB.

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  • I disagree with Jane Plants view, provided managers ensure the decisions and actions they make/take and those of their subordinates are proportionate to the circumstances, lawful, that they can be accountable for them, meeting those tests by default make the actions necessary, I beleive having a mandatory ground is a good thing. In my extensive experience of housing and dealing with issues on estates housing teams can be trusted to be human.

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  • I was one of those giving oral evidence yesterday mainly around our community trigger trials in Richmond, The Mandatory grounds section of new legislation has been designed to speed up and support any processes and can be halted or held if the tenant is willing to refrain from thier Anti social behaviour, how many of us have gone to court only to pospone or make a new date 3 months ahead to wait for Mental health assesments and other court reports. At the end of the day the other customers living with these issues on a daily basis should be a priority and the alledged perpetraitor will always have the option of ceasing thier ASB I believe the Mandatory ground is well overdue and a great addition to the new legislation if used well and proportionately this will be a very useful tool

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  • The essential question remains - "what do you do with the families that have been evicted?" Some will say it's their own fault, but who will want to give them shelter with such a pedigree? They don't just disappear. Others will say that the deterrent of eviction will make them behave - experience suggests not always.

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  • Dear All, I have contacted the Editor as I didnt say that at all. In fact, quite the opposite! The concern with the mandatory ground is that it will lead to numerous challenges relating to compliance with Art 8, making the process as long, if not longer, than the existing discretionary grounds. The theory behind the proposal for a mandatory ground for possession is justified and well intentioned but I have real concerns about the practicalities of it as do many lawyers dealing with proportionality arguments. The video of the session is still available to watch for anyone who is interested. Regards.

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  • Andy Boddington

    Jane. Thanks for your clarification. I'm not a lawyer but from a tenant and community perspective the current system certainly doesn't work.

    David. What happens to the evicted tenants has to be a secondary consideration to the health and safety of other people. No one should have to live in fear and seek treatment for depression (as happened with me) just because of the problems of rehousing tenants from hell.

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  • Emily Twinch

    Jane Plant has contacted us, and the story has been changed accordingly.

    Please let us know if you would like any comments posted before the story was changed removed.

    Many thanks for your comments, Emily Twinch, deputy website editor.

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  • Jim Bauld

    I see that the heading on this article has changed...I had tweeted earlier a link to it via @TCYJimB...apologies to Jane if that caused any problems...have now tweeted a correction!!!!!

    I was surprised that a fellow lawyer would ever think ASB evictions would be "too easy" or would complain about legal changes which might assist landlords to remove the worst problem tenants!!

    Similar changes are being mooted in Scotland and it's good to see that Jane shares my concerns that the creation of a "mandatory” ground for ASB eviction will just lead to more challenges under human rights

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