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Anti-social legislation provides scope for injunctions and possession

Wed 17 Sep 2014

Tough new legislation to tackle anti-social behaviour gives housing associations greater powers, says Winckworth Sherwood’s Ausilia Matraxia.

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 recently received Royal Assent, and gives professionals a means of better dealing with anti-social behaviour. In particular, local authorities and housing associations are given new rights to apply for injunctions, and in some instances, to apply for possession of property in which perpetrators reside or visit on a regular basis.

The 2014 Act enables for the first time a court to grant an injunction against a person aged 10 or over if two conditions are met:

1. that the court is satisfied that on the balance of probabilities the respondent has engaged or threatens to engage in anti-social behaviour; and

2. that it is just and convenient to grant the injunction for the purpose of preventing the respondent from engaging in anti social behaviour.

Anti-social behaviour is defined by the 2014 Act as conduct:

  • that has caused, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to any person;
  • capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to a person in relation to that person’s occupation of residential premises (of note is that this only applies to a housing provider, local authority or chief officer of police); or
  • capable of causing housing-related nuisance or annoyance to any person.

Significantly, housing providers may only make an application for an injunction if the application concerns anti-social behaviour that directly or indirectly relates to or affects its housing management functions.

The injunction sought must specify a person or organisation who will be responsible for supervising compliance with the requirements outlined in the injunction. That person then has a tri-fold duty to:

1. make any necessary arrangements in connection with the requirements;

2. promote compliance with the requirements; and

3. inform the person applying for the injunction and the chief officer of police of whether or not the requirements have been complied with.

Additionally, the injunction must outline that the respondent must keep in touch with the person responsible and notify them of any change of address. Additional requirements may include the power of arrest and the power to exclude a person (who is over 18) from their home.

As well as introducing a new power to grant an injunction, Part V of the 2014 Act also introduces a new absolute ground for possession of dwellings, resulting in a speedier process to possession where there has already been a court decision proving anti-social behaviour. This could mean possession being granted after a single hearing. The ground is available for secure and assured tenancies (including shared ownership leaseholders), who will no longer need to prove reasonableness, but government explanatory notes have suggested that the new ground should be used selectively and only in the most serious of cases.

If seeking to recover possession of a property under the 2014 Act, landlords should inform tenants that anti-social behaviour or criminality by them, people living with them, or their visitors could lead to a loss of their home under the new absolute ground.

Once a case reaches the court, the courts have a limited discretion on deciding whether to grant possession.  It must grant possession provided that a landlord has followed the correct procedure and the offence or anti social conduct was committed in the property or in the locality of the property, affected a person with a right to live in the locality of the property, or affected the landlord or landlord’s staff or contractors. In addition at least one of the following conditions must also be met in that the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household, or a person visiting the property has:

  • been convicted for a serious offence;
  • been found by a court to have breached an injunction to prevent nuisance and annoyance;
  • been convicted for breaching a criminal behaviour order;
  • been convicted for breaching a noise abatement notice or order; or
  • the tenant’s property has been closed for more than 48 hours under a closure order for anti-social behaviour.

Serious offences for the purpose of the conditions are included in schedule 3 of the 2014 Act, and include violent and sexual offences and those relating to offensive weapons, drugs and damage to property.

Housing associations and local government should note that not all of the provisions of the 2014 Act are yet in force and advice and guidance should always be taken.

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