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UPDATED: Anti-social behaviour is a nightmare for landlords to deal with

Problem tenants are difficult to deal with for landlords at the best of times; during the pandemic with people spending all their time at home, and with extra legal protections in place for tenants, it was even more difficult than ever.

Despite the government promising to introduce a fast-track process for dealing with repossession cases featuring antisocial behaviour (ASB), the process is still likely to be long and arduous.

With the Government's plan to introduce a Renters (Reform) Bill soon, and a promise to expedite a way that anti-social tenants are dealt with, even a claim that they can be removed within two weeks, many landlords are sceptical, and on all the evidence, with good reason.

When section 21 is removed within this Bill, the landlord's power to remove a tenant without a court hearing is removed. Instead of a Section 21, landlords will serve a Section 8 notice under an enhanced S8 process. This requires the landlord to give good reason (or "grounds") for the eviction. Whether the reason is that the landlord wants to sell the property, move back in, because the tenant is in rent arrears, or they are exhibiting anti-social behaviour, these reasons will all be covered by Section 8 which entails a court hearing.

What is Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB)?

The term covers a wide ranging list of of issues affecting landlords, tenants and neighbours. There are many ways of describing it, but ASB can be summed up by "anything causing or likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance to others".

Examples of ASG include:

- Excessive noise nuisance and particularly at unreasonable hours.

- Dog fouling, uncontrolled or noisy pets

- Vandalism, window breaking and graffiti.

- Inconsiderate or dangerous parking and abandoned vehicles.

- Dumping of rubbish.

- Blocking of safety exits

- Drug misuse and drug dealing

- Alcohol-related nuisance, and prostitution.

- Gangs of youths hanging around

- Hate incidents involving age, disability,faith, sexual orientation, or race discrimination.

- Harassment, including verbal and physical abuse and threats.

- Threats or actual acts of violence.

ASB's effects on people

ASB can lead to personal harm including people changing their behaviours, changing their routines to avoid it. It can have a severe impact on the quality of life. Other implications include a negative mental health impact due to living in fear. Increased levels of stress and anxiety over a period can lead to panic attacks, depression and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Who is responsible for dealing with ASB?

Ultimately tenants are responsible for their own behaviour, how they live, interact behave towards others. Antisocial behaviour is a breach of their tenancy agreement and therefore landlords need to take it seriously for the benefit of other tenants, neighbours and the general public.

How difficult is it for a landlord to deal with ASB

The answer is, is some case very difficult. Often there is no quick and easy solution, so the claim by members of the Government that it can be dealt with within 2 weeks seems outrageously optimistic.

In one recent case in Burnley, Lancashire, things got so badly out of hand that the police had to obtain a 'closure order' on one landlord's a property, which resulted in all the tenants being forced to vacate their home.

It was left to officers from the town's neighbourhood policing team to obtain the notice after months of complaints from other residents in the area. But it took at least 6 months of complaints before any action was taken, and only then with the additional influence behind it of multiple police attendances.

Landlords faced with anti-social behaviour or nuisance are more often than not on their own in a battle which is hard fought and won. The courts need to see a strong 'water tight' case to issue a possession order, so usually the bad behaviour must persist over a long enough period in order to gather sufficient evidence to evict on these grounds.

How should landlords deal with it?

Landlords faced with anti-social behaviour need to build-up a record of incidents which affect neighbours and other tenants. So, keeping a diary of events, getting hold of witness statements from those affected, plus police crime reports of criminal activity and police call-outs is the all-important evidence needed to support such an application to the courts. Inevitably, this takes time.

Generally defined in English law as, "behaviour by a person which causes, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to persons not of the same household as the person," it can drive those affected to distraction and as mentioned above, cause serious mental distress.

Clearly, it takes many forms: anti-social behaviour varies in degree, and this is the difficulty landlords and the courts have. Deciding exactly what is and what is not acceptable, and if a warning would be sufficient to curtail the behaviour. The courts are very reluctant to deprive people of their homes.

Common examples of anti-social behaviour range from occasional noisy parties to those on a very regular basis with large number attending, excessive noise from shouting and music, graffiti, refuse littering, vandalism, right through to the serious criminal activities involving drug taking, dealing and prostitution.

What can landlords do to deal with the problem?

There is not a great deal landlords can do in the short-term once these problems arise apart from initially diplomatically speaking to offenders and trusting they will see sense and realise the distress they are causing others. But sadly, offenders often don't see sense or reason, they don't care if they offend others.

Landlords should start to diarise every incident and every contact they have with offending tenants, other tenant residents, summarising conversations they have with them. They should also start to gather evidence from neighbours and log police reports.

Noise and litter nuisance can often be tackled with the help of the local authority. They have the equipment needed to monitor noise levels.

Of course, thorough pre-tenancy assessments are vital tools in the landlord's letting process to try to eliminate bad tenants, but given enough time and enough tenants on a landlord's books, there's always going to be the odd rogue tenant who will get through, no matter how good the checks.

A difficulty landlords often experience is the reluctance of other tenants and neighbours to get involved for fear of reprisals. Understandable, but without their evidence in the form of witness statements it is often difficult to take matters forward.

Tenants causing nuisance or any forms of anti-social behaviour should be given a formal warning in writing, in letters, in letters before action and ultimately a section 8 notice under the Housing Act 1988 before any court action is contemplated.

Minimising the effects of bad behaviours

Having properties which have good soundproofing, which also usually means good insulation as well, particularly in flats, is one good way to minimise disruption to others from noisy tenants. Tenancy agreements should contain specific clauses about anti-social behaviour, which can be relied on in court, about noise and other unwanted behaviours.

Legal liability

Landlords are not obliged to take action against tenants when causing a nuisance to neighbours and are in breach of their tenancy contract, and they are not generally not liable for nuisance tenants. However, if the landlord persistently fails to take all reasonable steps to stop bad behaviour, then the landlord can become partially liable with the tenant.

When landlords are faced with these problems, they should try to involve the local authority housing department as back-up and evidence, and involve the police where necessary.

Grounds for eviction for anti-social behaviour

Courts and the Government expect landlords to treat eviction as a last resort after all other means of correction have been tried. Landlords with problem tenants should seek legal advice and also consider using the services of an eviction specialist such as Landlord Action.


Anti social behaviour
Possession claims
Grounds for possession