Industry News James Wood 15/07/2022

Rental Reform - A deep dive on anti-social behaviour

With all the latest news coming out of Westminster, it can be easy to forget that there are still policy developments happening.  

With a new Minister in charge at DLUHC and a leadership election underway, there are likely to be some delays to the implementation of the Renter’s Reform package. 

However, the removal of Section 21 was a manifesto commitment in the last election. As a result, whoever the new leader is, reforms in this area are extremely likely to continue. 

With that in mind, the NRLA is continuing to analyse potential problems within the renter’s reform proposals and continuing to push for improvements on what has initially been announced. 

One of the key areas of concerns is around anti-social behaviour. Being able to tackle anti-social behaviour quickly and effectively is absolutely crucial to maintaining landlord confidence in the sector.  

The Government’s own figures show that around a third of all landlords and agents who sought possession had done so because of anti-social behaviour, making it one of the key reasons a tenancy comes to an end. 

How ASB possession works currently 

Currently under an assured shorthold tenancy, if you need to deal with anti-social behaviour then you can – 

  • Serve a Section 21 notice, giving two months notice to end the tenancy; or 

  • Serve a Section 8 notice using Grounds 7a or 14 (the anti-social behaviour grounds) 

Even with a longer notice period, landlords typically use Section 21 notices to deal with serious anti-social behaviour. This is because the requirements for the Section 8 grounds are too high, or require police or local authorities to play a much more active role than they currently do.  

Where landlords have to use Section 8, for example inside a fixed term, they typically can only use Ground 14. This is a discretionary ground available in any case where a tenant has engaged in anti-social behaviour.  

Because it is discretionary, there are no certainties around gaining possession, particularly where other tenants or neighbours are unwilling to provide evidence. This is a common occurrence, particularly in HMO set-ups where the tenants still have to live with the anti-social person.  

Often, rather than staying and giving evidence, the victim chooses to move out of the property instead, leaving the anti-social tenant to torment neighbours and future tenants. 

The mandatory ground for possession, Ground 7a, will guarantee possession where it can be used. However, it can only be used where the person has – 

  1. committed and been convicted of a serious crime 

  2. breached an Anti-Social Behaviour Injunction obtained under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 

  3. breached a Criminal Behaviour Order obtained under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 

  4. been convicted of a breach of a notice or order to reduce their noise in relation to the tenant's property under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 

  5. has had their property closed under a closure order obtained under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 and closure is continuous for at least 48 hours. 

This ground is also unavailable if an appeal against any of the above is ongoing. 

Given all of the above require heavy police or local authority involvement, landlords can only use this ground where the victims have reported ASB to the relevant authority, and that authority has taken action. 

Unfortunately, research show that most anti-social behaviour is not reported to the police. The Tony Blair Institute found that only 26% of cases of ASB were reported to the police. Of that 26%, only 41% were satisfied with the outcome. 

Similarly, the Victims Commissioner has highlighted how victims of anti-social behaviour fall through the cracks as police or local authorities don’t treat anti-social behaviour with the seriousness it deserves. 

Unsurprisingly then, currently landlords rarely ever use Ground 7a or Ground 14. Section 21 bypasses the difficulties of gathering evidence and the lacklustre response to ASB from the police or local authorities.  

Under the new system this won’t be available, and landlords will have justifiable concerns about seeking possession unless – 

  • the police and local authorities are taking a more active role in dealing with anti-social behaviour; 

  • they have a reasonable chance of gaining possession when they do apply to court; 

  • the courts with anti-social behaviour cases quickly and effectively; and 

  • the tenants and neighbours who suffer because of the anti-social tenant are properly protected when giving evidence. 

Unfortunately, while the white paper has proposed some changes to address anti-social behaviour, it doesn’t do enough to support landlords or the victims of anti-social behaviour. 

What the white paper is proposing 

The white paper is proposing retaining both the discretionary and mandatory possession grounds under the new periodic tenancy regime. 

Alongside this government has proposed reducing the length of notice required under Ground 7a. It also makes a vague commitment to exploring whether guidance for the judiciary, police and landlords would be helpful in discretionary anti-social behaviour cases. 

While the shorter notice on the mandatory is welcome, it really doesn’t do anything in isolation and most landlords still won’t be able to use it without the police and local authorities taking a far more active role in dealing with anti-social behaviour.  

What is the NRLA proposing 

To give landlords confidence in the new system we believe it is essential that: 

  • local authorities and the police report annually on their work in addressing statutory nuisance and anti-social behaviour. 

  • Local authorities and the police check the planned landlord portal when taking action to address anti-social behaviour. They must notify the landlord where they have taken such action. Any notification of action should be considered strong evidence that possession is justified in anti-social behaviour cases.  

  • where any of the requirements of the current Ground 7a have been met, it must be mandatory to inform the landlord and support them with appropriate action to remove the offender from the property to protect neighbours and potential fellow tenants. 

  • Statutory guidance must be published for the judiciary covering ‘low level’ anti-social behaviour and when it would be reasonable to grant possession in cases involving it.  

  • Where landlords have evidence that a tenant’s notice was served because of the behaviour of another tenant, this must be taken seriously in the statutory guidance. 

  • Anti-social behaviour hearings should be prioritised by the courts, with possession orders as a result enforced swiftly afterwards. With that in mind, where a possession order is granted for ASB landlords should automatically have the option to transfer up to the high court so that possession can be dealt with quickly and effectively. 

Get involved

The NRLA is asking members to get involved in its rental reform campaign by writing to their MPs outlining ways in which the Government's proposed changes will affect them and their businesses. There are a number of ways to do this, by writing a letter, sending an email or contacting them via social media. The NRLA has a handy tool allowing you to identify and contact your MP, which can be accessed here.

More information

James Wood

James Wood Head of Policy

James Wood, LLB, is the NRLA’s Head of Policy. James has provided legally sound advice to thousands of landlords for more than six years, along with producing the organisation’s guides and documents and training the organisation’s highly rated advice service.

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