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Good practice

This content applies to England

Good practice in dealing with perpetrators of antisocial behaviour.

Social landlords should only pursue eviction as a last resort. They should always seek the views of the alleged perpetrator, relevant agencies and any witnesses before seeking possession. All the circumstances of the relevant case should be considered in detail before taking action.

Explaining rights and responsibilities

Tenants should be made aware of their rights and responsibilities with regard to behaviour, which should be set out in the landlord's policy and procedures documents and in the relevant tenancy agreement. If complaints arise, early intervention by the landlord and any appropriate agencies is essential if eviction is to be avoided.

It should also be explained that if a tenant is evicted because of antisocial behaviour and subsequently applies as homeless, s/he may be found intentionally homeless. It should be noted, however, that a tenant's inability to control her/his children's behaviour may not justify an intentional homelessness decision.[1]

Similarly, if an applicant who has been evicted for antisocial behaviour applies for an allocation of social housing, she may be refused on the grounds that s/he is guilty of unacceptable behaviour that makes her/him 'unsuitable' to be a local authority tenant. See the section on Allocations for more information.

Supporting vulnerable tenants

If a tenant is vulnerable, landlords should work with relevant agencies to arrange appropriate support as soon as the tenancy starts, if not before. If antisocial behaviour subsequently occurs, landlords should take into account the age and health of the tenant, the frequency and severity of the alleged behaviour and any action taken by the tenant to abate it.

Where possession has been sought under discretionary grounds, case law has shown that the courts will only grant possession where it is proportionate, and will take into account the perpetrator's circumstances:

  • the court decided that it was not reasonable to order possession against a single, epileptic man who had taken steps to address the nuisance he had caused, and whom the local authority did not propose to rehouse should he be evicted[2]
  • the court refused to order possession where after one incident in which a flat was seriously fire damaged, no further complaints had been made against the tenant[3]
  • where the tenant's children had behaved well for 18 months, their previous bad behaviour (which contributed to an Asian family being forced to flee their home) was so bad that an outright possession order was granted[4]
  • the Court of Appeal has also established that a possession order can only be made against a secure tenant whose behaviour is a result of a mental health problem if it is justified in order to avoid endangering health or safety.[5]

Seeking possession

Court action should only be taken in cases where there is overwhelming evidence of the behaviour complained of, or the complaint is of a very serious nature. Other less drastic remedies that do not lead to eviction should also be considered, such as mediation, demotion, injunctions or community based orders.[6]

There are a number of grounds for possession that landlords can use to seek possession from tenants guilty of antisocial behaviour. Except in respect of the mandatory grounds for possession for antisocial behaviour against a secure or assured tenant (section 84A Housing Act 1985 and ground 7A, Sch.2 Housing Act 1988) the courts must consider whether it is reasonable to award possession. For further information see the pages:

Where possession is sought on discretionary grounds, the court must decide if it is reasonable to order possession. It must consider the effect the antisocial behaviour has had on others and the continuing effect it is likely to have if repeated. The fact that the tenant may end up homeless is relevant when considering reasonableness,[7] although it is enough to know that the tenant is entitled to make a homelessness application and it will be processed properly.[8]

If the court issues a possession order, the tenant's representative should press for a suspended order, on the terms that there is no repetition of the antisocial behaviour.

Examples when a suspended order has been granted include a secure tenant who had made threats and used foul language towards neighbours[9] and a registered social landlord tenant who had repaired cars at night, been abusive towards neighbours and whose son had been responsible for racial abuse.[10]

The Human Rights Act 1998 can be raised as a defence if a social landlord appears to be taking possession proceedings unnecessarily. However, the courts are still likely to grant an order if there have been serious incidences of harassment.[11] See the page on Public law and human rights defences in possession proceedings for further information on possible Article 8 (right to respect for the home) or other public law defences.

Landlords will need to take care that, when bringing possession proceedings, they do not unlawfully discriminate against perpetrators who have a 'protected characteristics' under the Equality Act 2010 (ie disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity, race, sex, sexual orientation, and religion or belief).[12] See the section on the Equality Law for further information about discrimination by landlords.

The Chartered Institute of Housing has published Community Harm Statement, with related guidance, to help social landlords to present evidence to the court as to the impact of antisocial behaviour on the neighbours and the community. This is a recognised template to support judicial and non-judicial actions against antisocial behaviour.

Troubled families programme

Local authorities are encouraged to work with central government on the Troubled Families Programme. The programme has been set up to work with families that cause problems in the community . 

Local authorities are asked to identify families who have at least two of the following criteria:

  • parents or children involved in crime or anti-social behaviour. 
  • children who have not been attending school regularly
  • children identified as in need or are subject to a Child Protection Plan. 
  • adults out of work or at risk of financial exclusion or young people at risk of worklessness
  • families affected by domestic violence and abuse
  • parents or children with a range of health problems.

From April 2015 inclusion in the programme is to be prioritised for families:

  • with multiple problems who are most likely to benefit from an integrated, whole family approach, and
  • who are the highest cost to the public purse.

Further information on the programme is available on Gov.uk.

[1] Griffiths v St. Helens MBC, 28 July 2004, St. Helens CC.

[2] Solihull MBC v Reeman, June 1994, Legal Action 10.

[3] Wandsworth LBC v Hargreaves (1994) 27 HLR 142, CA.

[4] Waltham Forest LBC v Partridge [2000] Legal Action, July 2000, CA.

[5] Manchester CC v Romano, Manchester CC v Samari 29 June 2004, CA.

[6] Sutton Housing Trust v Lawrence (1987) 19 HLR 520, CA.

[7] Croydon LBC v Moody (1998) 31 HLR 738.

[8] Darlington BC v Sterling (1996) 25 HLR October 1996, CA.

[9] Woking DC v Bistram (1995) 27 HLR 1, CA.

[10] West Kent Housing Association Ltd v Davies [1998] EGCS 103.

[11] Lambeth LBC v Howard [2001] 6 March 2001, CA; Shelter's Housing Law Update Issue 105.

[12] s.32(1) Equality Act 2010.

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