Having to deal with anti-social behaviour will undoubtedly be one of the most daunting problems that a landlord will have to deal with.
The general rule is that a landlord cannot be held liable for a tenant’s action unless they have authorised the anti-social behaviour. The first thing that may cross a landlord’s mind is how do they evict the tenant. Before embarking upon legal proceedings the landlord should consider discussing the matter with their tenant, but should their behaviour not improve seeking a possession order may be the only option, but it may not be straightforward if the matter is not handled correctly.
The Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 introduced a range of measures to assist landlords dealing with anti- social tenants. The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 introduced ground 7A into Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988, which is a new mandatory ground for possession if the tenant’s conduct involves criminal behaviour.
It is arguable that registered social landlords have more to them at their disposal combatting anti-social behaviour from its tenants. Registered social landlords may apply for demotion order, which is a powerful weapon in its own right as it may lead to the tenant improving their behaviour because should they not, the landlord may apply for a possession order. On the flip side, Registered landlords have to bare in mind that they will have to act quickly to confront anti-social behaviour otherwise they may run the risk of being on the receiving end of a Rent Penalty Order or an Management Order, which will lead to the landlord losing control over the management of the property.
Private landlord’s options are restricted. A landlord may also apply for an injunction, which is effective but costly. The first thing that a landlord should do is to check the tenancy agreement. Most Assured Short-Hold Tenancies (AST) would have a clause prohibiting the tenant from doing or permitting to be done on the premises any acts which may cause a nuisance or annoyance to the landlord, tenants or occupiers of adjoining premises (an adjoining occupier is not necessarily a person that lives directly next door to the tenanted property that is a subject of complaint). In law, nuisance is not necessarily an act that is regarded as a nuisance in everyday sense of the word. It will require an act of physical interference. .
The landlord may prefer to serve a section 21 notice as it may be less confrontational long term as the landlord will not have to show grounds for possession. Generally, such a notice will not bring a tenancy to an end before the fixed term. However, it is advisable to check to see if the AST has a break clause which allows the landlord to terminate the tenancy early. Such a clause may be conditional e.g. cannot be exercised until after six months of the tenancy. If the landlord wishes to exercise the break clause, the landlord must still follow the correct procedure by serving the appropriate notice. Waiting two months before action can be taken may not be a luxury that the landlord can afford.
Another option available to a private landlord would be to serve the tenant with a notice under section 8 of the Housing Act 1988. The landlord may rely on grounds 12 (breach of contract) and/or ground 14 (nuisance and/or annoyance). The advantage of ground 14 is that it extends to the conduct of the tenant’s visitor.
Bear in mind that the court will only make a possession order if the tenant’s behaviour is serious. As with all litigation, the strength of the claim is defined by the evidence. It is advisable that landlords keep a record of all incidents and complaints and that the same are documented as you will never know when you will need to refer to the same as evidence. The landlord should think about taking statements from other tenants, however, most tenants may be reluctant to provide a statement as they may be fearful of the ramifications, especially if they continue to share accommodation with the tenant accused. The landlord should consider taking the following steps at an early stage:
- Taking statements from neighbours
- Keep a journal of every complaint
- Keep a journal of their visits to the property
- Reporting the matter to the Local Authority
- Involving the police if the tenant is indulging in criminal behaviour
Reporting the matter to the Local Authority and the police allows the landlord to rely on evidence from professional witnesses which may assist in their claim for possession.
Taking the simple steps above, although cumbersome, will pay dividends to the landlord in the long run.
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