Dealing With Anti-Social Behaviour
19th January 2018
One common complaint from residents is in regards to Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB). Antisocial behaviour is defined as “behaviour by a person which causes, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as the person” (Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003 and Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011).
Antisocial behaviour isn't very nice, especially if you or your tenants happen to be the victim. As a landlord, it is likely they will complain to you before they complain to the local authority or the police, who, unless there is an immediate risk of harm, will likely refer the victim to the local authority anyway, especially in regards to noise complaints and minor antisocial behaviour - it used to be the case that the police had powers to break up late night, out of hand parties and tell noisy neighbours to be quiet however, this is no longer the case. The police can only intervene in serious acts of ASB that are happening right now or where a crime has been committed (such as criminal damage).
It isn't getting any better either, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) conducted a survey where 81% of those surveyed said ASB was on the rise and one-third of all people surveyed said they had been a victim of antisocial behaviour or witnessed ASB in the last year, according to The Telegraph who go on to say that the one in eight reports of ASB incidents involve alcohol. The research doesn't appear to cover ASB between neighbours and tenants which is what our article is really about and how to deal with it. However, a recent Which? survey found that 1 in 4 people had a problem with nuisance neighbours.
So, what exactly is Anti-Social Behaviour?
According to the Met Police;
"There are three main categories for antisocial behaviour, depending on how many people are affected:
- Personal antisocial behaviour is when a person targets a specific individual or group
- Nuisance antisocial behaviour is when a person causes trouble, annoyance or suffering to a community
- Environmental antisocial behaviour is when a person’s actions affect the wider environment, such as public spaces or buildings.
Under these main headings antisocial behaviour falls into one of 13 different types:
- Vehicle abandoned: This covers vehicles that appear to have been left by their owner, rather than stolen and abandoned. It includes scrap or ‘end of life’ vehicles and those damaged at the scene of a road traffic collision that have been abandoned and aren’t awaiting recovery.
- Vehicle nuisance or inappropriate use: This relates to vehicles being used in acts such as street cruising (driving up and down the street causing annoyance and bothering other road users), vehicle convoys and riding or driving on land other than a road. It also covers the misuse of go-peds, motorised skateboards and electric-propelled cycles, and the unlicensed dealing of vehicles where a person has 2 or more vehicles on the same road within 500 metres of each other.
- Rowdy or inconsiderate behaviour: This refers to general nuisance behaviour in a public place or a place to which the public have access, such as private clubs. It does not include domestic-related behaviour or public disorder which should be reported as crimes.
- Rowdy or nuisance neighbours: This covers any rowdy behaviour or general nuisance caused by neighbours, including boundary and parking disputes. It also covers noise nuisance from parties or playing loud music.
- Littering or drugs paraphernalia: This includes fly posting and discarding litter, rubbish or drugs paraphernalia in any public place.
- Animal problems: This covers any situation where animals are creating a nuisance or people’s behaviour associated with the use of animals is deemed as antisocial. It includes uncontrolled animals, stray dogs, barking, fouling and intimidation by an animal.
- Trespassing: This is any situation in which people have entered land, water or premises without lawful authority or permission. It ranges from taking an unauthorised shortcut through a garden to setting up unauthorised campsites.
- Nuisance calls: This covers any type of communication by phone that causes anxiety and annoyance, including silent calls and intrusive ‘cold calling’ from businesses. It does not cover indecent, threatening or offensive behaviour which should be reported as crimes.
- Street drinking: This relates to unlicensed drinking in public spaces, where the behaviour of the persons involved is deemed as antisocial. It also covers unplanned and spontaneous parties which encroach on the street.
- Prostitution-related activity: This relates to any activity involving prostitution such as loitering, displaying cards or promoting prostitution. It may also refer to activities in and around a brothel that impact on local residents. It does not include ‘kerb-crawling’ which should be reported as a crime.
- Nuisance noise: This relates to all incidents of noise nuisance that do not involve neighbours (see ‘Nuisance neighbours’ above).
- Begging or vagrancy: This covers anyone begging or asking for charitable donations in a public place, or encouraging a child to do so, without a license. It also includes sleeping rough in the open air, shop doorways or communal areas. Unlicensed ticket sellers at or near public transport hubs may also fall into this category.
- Misuse of fireworks: This will include the inappropriate use of fireworks, the unlawful sale or possession of fireworks and noise created by fireworks."
Ultimately, when it comes to taking action against ASB, you have multiple options. The first option is always the best and this is for the tenant/victim to try and resolve the situation themselves or by mediation (a useful tool that can help resolve issues when neighbour relationships break down without the need for prosecution or eviction); of course, this isn't always possible, especially if there is a risk of violence or you simply feel you can't confront the individual safely, which is OK; some people are just not very nice to deal with and in which case, move on to your second option.
The next option is one of several but regardless of what option you choose, they all mean reporting the individual. You may be able to get help from the local authority, your landlord, their landlord (though this might not be possible or advisable) or the police but as mentioned, the police are limited in what they can do and the same is true of your landlord. As a landlord, they will only be able to really help provided the personal exhibiting anti-social behaviour is also one of their tenants and even then, there is a process they must follow; they can't evict a tenant on a simple report from a neighbour.
So, you've spoke to your landlord and he's advised you that the other chap isn't his tenant and has asked you to go to the police or the local authority. We've already established that the police are unlikely to be the best point of call unless there's an immediate risk of danger (in which case, call 999) or a crime is/has been committed. So, call the local authority.
You'll be advised that they've taken the report and you'll feel like you've wasted your time, but you haven't. Now, any good advisor will tell you to keep a log or a diary of incidents, the times they take place, what happens, what's said and by who and if possible, record it either via an audio recorder or video camera or take photographs. You should report every incident and forward the evidence as soon as possible, every time an incident takes place. Don't wait for three or four incidents to happen before making each report. Keeping a log will also help others to understand the impact the ASB is having on you.
Many local authorities have adopted an incremental approach to dealing with ASB, this means taking steps to resolve the issue, each step increasing in severity. Most councils in the East Midlands will try to arrange some form of mediation or signpost you to relevant organisations who can assist before beginning a full investigation into the reports. Once they do decide to investigate and can see from your evidence that there is a need for action, they will most likely warn the offending person and eventually, should they persist in their behaviour, face prosecution which could result in an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) which could ban them from coming within a certain distance of your or the area in which they are offending, effectively forcing them to be evicted from their home (this can even happen to homeowners).
ASBOs can be awarded (we say awarded, some lesser-todo individuals act as though they're something to be proud of) for any act of antisocial behaviour, the order details conditions that the offender must adhere to, otherwise, they will be breaking the law and could face prison. ASBOs can be given to criminals who repeatedly offend in specific areas (these are known as Criminal Behaviour Orders).
In regards to noisey neighbours or other noise nuisance, there have been fantastic innovations to help combat this. RH Environmental, for example, have developed an app, The Noise App, which allows you to almost effortlessly record evidence and send it to the relevant authority in a near seamless experience.
What about when children are causing anti-social behaviour?
I have a friend who ended up moving home because nobody would take action against the children making his life a misery, they were breaking his windows, bullying him in the street and setting off fireworks aimed at his house; the chap is in his late 50's and just couldn't deal with it anymore. He found the police and local authority refused to take action and he nearly ended up on the streets as voluntarily homeless because he had "willingly" given up his property. It wasn't a simple case of just evicting them, as they had the same landlord, because this is a long, arduious process. Firstly, you have to prove to a judge that ASB has taken place which, gathering the evidence, as you can tell, isn't an overnight thing. The evidence gathering process, along with taking the relevant actions before trying to get the offending person/people evicted can take upwards of six months, for my friend, he just simply couldn't wait that long.
Eviction is usually the last resort and with the ever-tightening landlord laws, it isn't easy to evict someone and rightfully so; when you want to evict someone, you have to apply to the court for possession, be granted possession, wait for the person to leave and if not, enforce the possession order. This process alone can take another six months. This is why other remedial action is always the first point of call. If the issue isn't remedied during the year it takes to gather evidence and evict the person, its likely the ASB will get even worse during that time and if no remedial action has been attempted, a judge may be less inclined to award possession before ordering mediation or other remedial action be attempted before a possession order is granted.
If you're a landlord struggling to deal with unruly tenants, you should get in touch. We can take over management of your properties and in doing so, shoulder the responsibility of dealing with the problem tenants.