Painsmith Landlord and Tenant Blog

A practitioners landlord and tenant law blog from PainSmith Solicitors

Ground 14

Most of you will have heard about the coalition governments crack down on anti social behaviour especially in light of the recent rioting and looting. However, the coalition government is taking it that one step too far, in our humble opinion, and suggesting that those that are convicted of anti social behaviour should be evicted from rented accommodation even where the anti social behaviour has nothing to do with the rented property.

In August 2011 the Department for Communities and Local Government released its consultation on “A new mandatory power of possession for anti-social behaviour.” The consultation is aimed at making Ground 14 of Schedule II of the Housing Act 1988 a mandatory ground for possession.

Looking at the consultation itself statements that should be noted are:

“It is clearly right that eviction for anti-social behaviour should remain exceptional: the loss of one’s home is a serious sanction and eviction may simply displace the problem elsewhere rather than providing a long term solution.”

“But where landlords turn to possession as a last resort in order to provide respite to communities and as a serious sanction against perpetrators that process can take too long”.

“Most importantly though lengthy possession proceedings mean that the suffering of victims is further extended”.

“….serious anti-social behaviour and criminality beyond the immediate neighbourhood of the property can clearly be taken into account”.

The consultation then asks those that wish to respond to consider the following questions:

1. Do you agree that we should extend the scope of the current discretionary ground for possession for anti-social behaviour and criminality in this way?
2. Do you agree that we should construct a new mandatory power of possession in this way?
3. Are these the right principles which should underpin a mandatory power of possession for anti-social behaviour?
4. Have we defined the basis for the new mandatory power correctly? If not, how could we improve the definition?
5. As a landlord would you anticipate seeking possession using the mandatory power in some or all of the instances where this would be available?
6. Are there other issues related the introduction of a mandatory power for possession for anti-social behaviour that we should consider?

So how to respond in a rational and clearly though out manner, difficult, but here goes.

If Ground 14 is made mandatory both social and private landlords will be allowed to issue possession proceedings not only where the tenant is convicted for anti-social or criminal behaviour but also if the occupier or a visitor of the tenant has such a conviction. So will this lead to problems with the convicted father visiting his children? Does this contradict one of the coalition government’s aims, to promote family life, I think so.

Its quite clear that this consultation is in response to the riots in August and that there was as much though put behind it as Teresa May’s statement about the Right to Family Life and the cat. But whilst the consultation appears to recognise that the court process is too long it makes no reference to why that is and no reference to how that should be improved. Even where landlords have mandatory grounds for rent arrears the process can take too long with agents and landlords taking their frustrations out on us poor, overworked lawyers (its true!).

One has to wonder however with the current housing shortage and the problems that were recognised with the younger generation following the rioting whether moving people on is really the best we can do. We live by the principle that “if you do the crime you must serve the time” but after that time people are entitled to get on with their lives because this justice system promotes the right to rehabilitation. It is obviously very difficult for some to accept this especially where they have been victims of a serious crime but this consultation is not promoting re-habilitation it is promoting ostracising certain sections of the community which can lead to an increase in crime and looting.

This cycle must end and housing, communities and the court system needs investing. Under Ground 14 it is possible to get possession where the tenants are a nuisance in our experience and this is simply going too far.

Filed under: England & Wales, FLW Article, , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. Crystal says:

    Various councils are going even further with half-baked plans to prevent anti-social behaviour which will costs landlords more money on properties in already difficult areas. As a landlord and agent in Southend, we are waiting for the implementation of Selective Licensing on some of our town’s most deprived areas. The council say that anti-social behaviour in these areas can be reduced by improving the standard of rental accommodation and having extra powers to make private landlords evict problem tenants.There are adequate powers to deal with the root causes of the anti-social behaviour problems in these areas. If the real objective is to improve some poor quality housing, then the council should be clear about that, and use the powers they have already to target those landlords at fault, rather than good landlords in these areas who will already be fighting an up-hill battle to find good tenants and make money on their investments.

    We have raised an e-petition on the governments’ website to have the matter debated in the House of Commons. Please add your name:
    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/17083

  2. Peter Smith says:

    As always, thank you for bringing this to our attention.

    For what its worth, here is the response I have sent:

    Q. 1 No

    Q. 2 – you haven’t made it clear whether “visitors” are included and whether the family of the convicted person should be included. Answer is “Yes” to convicted person but not otherwise. This could mean a mandatory Order that convicted person who is not the tenant must not visit premises.
    Q. 3 – YES, BUT…. Some woolly thinking here. You don’t trust courts to judge on what is “reasonable” in present system but you do trust them to expedite the mandatory process. Why?
    Q. 4 – Not really. Private landlords seem to be left out on a limb here. Why? Moreover, there is still the problem of the “regular visitor.” The landlord should be able to get a criminal visitor barred from the premises on threat of prison rather than having to evict tenants, which might include children. Including visitors is likely to greatly increase delays over proportionality as evicting a family because of the conviction of a regular visitor is not proportionate. The Pinnock case was exceptional and not generally applicable, in fact the court did not accept that the son who caused the problems was merely a visitor.
    Q. 5 – Quite possibly, but I would want to be able to deal with the visitor problem without evicting my tenants, if appropriate, and I would want to be able to evict the criminal without necessarily evicting the spouse and children.
    Q. 6 – You haven’t really considered the expedition issue; “we anticipate” is not good enough. Courts should have a duty to hear the matter within 15 days of service. I don’t believe that a conviction for serious anti-social behaviour and criminality beyond the immediate neighbourhood of the property should be a condition for mandatory possession. If applicable at all, a court should have discretion as to whether there is a serious threat to the landlord or the neighbours. Again this issue would increase the number of “proportionality” defences – and appeals.

  3. sue thompson says:

    Well said Crystal. Selective Licensing is just another band-wagon for the local authorities to jump on. Providing good standards of housing is up to the council to monitor and enforce. Anti social behaviour is a problem which those employed in this ‘industry’ do not want to solve as it would mean the end of their jobs. Our local ASB units do not come out to see tenants, the police do not want to know when a crime is being committed – only after the event – then say there is not enough evicence. The problem is like North Sea fishing – if we catch all the fish and don’t throw them back there will be no fishing. Middlesbrough Police said that they had caught a drug dealer a day and two years ago they achieved 400 odd drug dealers. I was somewhat surprised to learn that Middlesbrough had this many dealers. When we asked the police how many were locked up – the answer was 7.

    Making Ground 14 mandatory will not really have much impact. To go for Ground 14 normally takes up to a year of diary keeping by neighbours (who are often scared to become involved). As a landlady I always go for Ground 8. But beware, where will these naughty people go once evicted? Will the local authority rehouse them? Private landlords are already being asked to house tenants who have been evicted from social landlords. Landlords cannot and will not be responsible for their tenants’ behaviour. Will we increase cardboard city? The basic problem needs addressing as to why there is so much ASB?

    Every one is footsying around the problem. ASB is caused in the majority of cases by people who are not only unemployed but unoccupied. Giving out ASBOs is a badge of honour – our local pubs even had the culprits faces printed on their beer mats.

    These people need to be occupied. Make them go to classes to learn how to be a good citizen/and a good tenant. Teach them trades and skills. Make it compulsory attendance or send them to prison. Do not reduce their benefits which would result in extra crimes. Make prison more of a boot camp instead of the free board and lodge it appears to be at the moment. Please do not use the argument that this would cost money – how much does ASB cost? One of my local authorities employed 19 people for 22 months and managed to serve 2 ASBOs and 6 Notices for fly-tipping. Either they had extremely good citizens or some of those 19 people were surplus/not doing their jobs.We need more drug rehab centres. Malaya turned their drug problems around by compulsory rehab for using and imprisonment for dealing.

    What exactly do these politicians mean when they say ‘we will be tough on crime’?

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