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What private landlords need to know about anti-social behaviour.

Anti-social behaviour is frequently in the news. It seems to affect every community and can happen in the most unlikely of places. As a private landlord you need to be aware of anti-social behaviour. While you aren't legally responsible for the behaviour of your tenant you must respond to any complaints. You can't simply ignore them. As we'll see shortly to do so could be costly.

What is anti-social behaviour?

We're all pretty much aware that some behaviour is unacceptable. But the definition in law is...'Any behaviour which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household.'

That's a pretty broad definition. Some specific examples are:

  • Playing loud music.
  • Excessive noise including shouting, swearing and screaming.
  • Illegal parking of vehicles.
  • Abandoning vehicles.
  • Allowing rubbish to build up.
  • Threatening and abusive behaviour.
  • Allowing children or others to act in a manner which causes fear or intimidation.
  • Racist or homophobic behaviour.

While this is far from an exhaustive list, they are the most common anti-social behaviours. All the above apply whether the behaviour takes place inside or outside the property or in communal areas.

Prevention is better than cure

Before the tenancy begins you need to spell out to the tenant their obligations regarding anti-social behaviour. You can do this when you or your letting agent check in the tenant. You need to make the tenant aware what anti-social behaviour is. As well as the consequences of such behaviour. Emphasise anti-social behaviour includes causing annoyance to the neighbours

Your tenancy agreement should include information about anti-social behaviour. You must have a clause spelling out that anti-social behaviour could result in eviction. Many local authorities insist on this.

What happens if you receive a complaint about a tenant?

It depends on the seriousness of the complaint. But your first step should always be to contact the tenant. There are always two sides to every story but you do need to follow up the complaint and see how valid it is.

If there is an issue it may be that a quiet word to the tenant is enough to solve the problem. It often is. However, should this not be the case you need to start gathering evidence. At this stage you should contact the anti-social behaviour team at your local council.

The council will assist in gathering evidence. For example, they may provide the complainant with a diary or log to record incidents of anti-social behaviour. They will also visit your tenant and issue a verbal warning. During this visit they will remind your tenant they risk eviction if the behaviour continues.

What happens next?

If the anti-social behaviour continues the council will issue a written warning. There’re no real timescales here as every case is different. And every council operate on their own schedules. But whilst it's certainly not a fast process it doesn't always drag on either.

A written warning is usually the last step before eviction. But if it’s ignored some councils do offer other options. Though they do rely on the cooperation of your tenant.

For example, the tenant could agree to an acceptable behaviour contract. In this case the council will work with you and any other agencies (social services for example) to set boundaries of behaviour. Some councils offer mediation services too.

But in serious cases of anti-social behaviour eviction may be the only solution.

Evicting a tenant for anti-social behaviour

If you're left with no choice you have to apply to the court for a possession order. This will usually be under Section 8. You will of course have to present evidence. The council will help with this. However, if the tenancy is nearing its end a Section 21 notice is easier as you don't have to prove your case.

What happens if you ignore complaints about anti-social behaviour?

We mentioned earlier ignoring anti-social behaviour could be costly. In the first instance a tenant who indulges in this behaviour is likely to cause damage to your property. But there are other consequences if the behaviour continues.

The council or police can apply for a Premises Closure Order. A PCO shuts down the property. This can be for as long as six months. During that time, you can’t let the property. Even if the tenant causing anti-social behaviour moves out. The financial implications of this are obvious.

If you receive complaints about anti-social behaviour it's in your best interests to try and resolve them.

Private landlords can find tenants fast by listing their property with MakeUrMove the original online letting agency.

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