We received reports from several complainants in relation to noise nuisance/disturbances (shouting, screaming, fights) at one of our properties. As part of our collaborative working processes, we shared this information with the Police and requested more details from them regarding their call outs to the property and details of any actions/advice provided by them.
Initially, we tried to help the tenant address the issues and modify their behaviour through a range of informal measures, which were completed by the Neighbourhood Manager and the Anti-Social Behaviour Case Manager. However, this was during the first few months of the lockdown and our services were limited at that time due to Government restrictions, which prevented us from being able to visit the tenant at the property, which we would ordinarily seek to do in normal times. We were also keeping the complainants informed as to the actions we were taking (where we were able to) as well throughout this period.
Once it became clear that the informal measures were not having the desired impact and that the noise nuisance/disturbances from the property were continuing, we were left with no other option but to escalate the matter to reflect the seriousness of the situation and to look to protect the residents in the neighbouring properties. A final written warning letter was served on the tenant and, following that, they agreed to counter sign (alongside us and the Police) an ‘Acceptable Behaviour Contract’, which set out a number of requirements that – if adhered to – would ensure no further action was taken against them.
Unfortunately the tenant’s poor behaviour continued with further noise nuisance/disturbances occurring at the property. As such, a Notice of Seeking Possession was served on the tenant, which is the first formal legal step in terms of recovering the property. Despite the breaches of her tenancy and the significant, negative impact their behaviour was having on her neighbours, we were also continuing to support the tenant and were liaising with support agencies on their behalf to try to ensure their access to specialist support agencies. Sadly, the tenant did not always engage with the offers of help and support. The ASB Case Manager was also continuing to keep in touch with the complainants and provide them with updates as to the actions being taken where possible and was able to do so without breaching any confidentiality or data protection regulations. One of the complainants was also referred to the Police’s ‘Victims First’ support scheme to make sure that they had additional support to help them deal with the anti-social behaviour occurring at their neighbour’s property.
The Police were continuing to take regular action against the tenant throughout this period and, following the disturbances at the address, had imposed bail conditions upon them (which would result in their arrest if broken) so, at the time, it was thought that an Injunction would not achieve the progress with this matter and that a Closure Order* could and would. Following discussions with the Police, it was agreed that a ‘full’ closure order would be more appropriate given the circumstances of this particular case.
A closure order is a legal measure that either the Police or the local authority can apply for. A closure order is exactly that, which if granted, it restricts who can then gain access to the property – if anyone. You can go for a ‘partial’ closure order which could be limited to the tenant and/or trusted family members / support workers etc) or a ‘full’ closure order which prevents anyone at all from accessing the property).
The ASB Case Manager provided a witness statement to support the Police’s application, which was ultimately successful in preventing the tenant or anyone else from entering the property. The ASB Case Manager remained in contact with the tenant by email and made sure that she was safely housed with a family member. The closure order was granted for an initial period of 3 months and, to help re-inforce the terms of the closure order, an Injunction was also sought and obtained to prevent the tenant from returning to the area (as well as the property) in order to ensure that there were no further disturbances or nuisance caused by the tenant to any other local residents in the area.
The ASB Case Manager continued to keep in contact with the complainants regarding the actions being taken and, when informed that the front and back gardens to the tenant’s home were heavily overgrown and generally unkempt, worked with the Neighbourhood Manager and the team to instruct an external company to tackle the problems and to bring the gardens back under control and in line with expected standards, which was a relief to the neighbours.
Once the Notice of Seeking Possession had expired then we commenced formal legal proceedings to recover the property. However, the tenant gave notice to end her tenancy which enabled us to recover the property without the time and expense of a possession hearing.
The above is a good example of the legal powers that both ourselves and the Police have available to us to tackle repeated and ‘high level’ anti-social behaviour, which is having a significant impact on other residents in their homes and communities and also when early intervention and informal measures are not successful in resolving complaints of ASB. As well as taking the relevant enforcement action we will continue working with the perpetrator (where possible and when they engage) to ensure that they receive help and support as well as access to specialist support agencies. We will also ensure that we are keeping the complainants up to date with the actions we are taking and the progress we are making with the case wherever possible.