Social Housing Speed Read: Government Action Plan to Crack Down on Anti-Social Behaviour
11th April, 2023
On 27 March, the Government published an Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, setting out its new approach to tackling the blight of anti-social behaviour disrupting communities across England and Wales.
The Action Plan, which is to be overseen and implemented by a new ‘Anti-Social Behaviour Taskforce” (jointly led by the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Levelling Up and involving national and local agencies), sets out three ways in which the Government intends to “deal with anti-social behaviour for good”:
- Making sure that anti-social behaviour is treated with the urgency it deserves, increasing hotspot policing and enforcement, rolling out a new Immediate Justice Service and giving communities more of a say in (and visibility of) how offenders are punished.
- Changing laws and systems to create a zero tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour, such as banning nitrous oxide, increasing powers of drug-testing and introduce stronger laws to ensure that those who are persistently disruptive are evicted.
- Giving the police and other agencies the tools necessary to discourage anti-social behaviour, including on-the spot fines, investment in activities for young people, filling empty shops and regenerating local parks.
Although the measures included in the Government’s Action Plan are wide reaching, promising changes to the law, enforcement, monitoring and early intervention, it is the proposals dealing with anti-social behaviour by tenants, eviction and the allocation of social housing which are likely to bring the greatest benefits to the social housing sector. The key measures to note are as follows:
- Extension of closure powers to housing providers
Where premises are a source of nuisance to neighbours or members of the public, the Government intends to consult on expanding Closure Powers (which currently allow the Police or Council Officers to initiate a process to close down premises that are being used, or are likely to be used, to commit nuisance or disorder). The Government proposes to extend these powers to housing providers, making it easier and quicker for Housing Providers to directly tackle nuisance premises without requiring the assistance of the Police or Council Offices.
- Faster eviction of anti-social tenants
Private registered providers will be able to act more quickly to evict anti-social tenants. The “grounds for possession” will be made faster and easier to prove, meaning that landlords can take immediate action rather than giving two months’ notice and waiting for the end of a fixed term (as is required when relying on a Section 21 notice). There is to be two week notice period for all anti-social behaviour eviction grounds.
- Supporting landlords in dealing with anti-social behaviour
In addition to making eviction easier, the Government proposes a variety of other measures to assist landlords, such as working with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service to ensure that anti-social behaviour cases are prioritised in Possession Lists in the Courts and expanding the discretionary eviction ground. The Action Plan states that anti-social behaviour will be “easier to prove in Court”, and it will be clarified that any behaviour capable of causing nuisance or annoyance can lead to eviction.
- Changing allocation guidance
The Government intends to update social housing allocations guidance to be clear that anti-social behaviour can and should be used to de-prioritise perpetrators, who should be at the ‘back of the queue’ for social housing, and also explore a “three strikes and you’re out” eviction expectation for social landlords.
The Government intends a ‘multi-agency’ approach to enforcement, expecting Police and Crime Commissioners to play a key role in co-ordinating the delivery of the measures set out in the Action Plan on a Local level, working with Community Safety Partnerships, police forces, local authorities and other agencies such as housing associations and the probation service. The Action Plan also promises consultation on stronger enforcement tools, such as extending dispersal powers to local authorities, lowering the age limit of community protection notices, and extending Community Safety Accreditation Scheme powers to include anti-social behaviour powers.
Although at first glance the Action Plan appears a very broad reaching strategy and promises comprehensive measures to assist housing providers in tackling anti-social behaviour, it is important to note that it is, at this stage, only a plan. Although some of the proposals are more substantiated than others, the Government has largely not provided any indication as to how the measures are to be delivered, several of the proposals (such as the extension of Closure Powers) are subject to further consultation and the question remains whether the (already stretched) law enforcement and other agencies (including housing providers) who are to be relied upon to deliver the Action Plan will have the resources to do so.
If you have any concerns about the above and how it may affect social housing providers, or any other questions relating to social housing, please do not hesitate to contact Amy Stirton or another of our expert Social Housing Lawyers.
Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.
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