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How an occupier can deal with antisocial behaviour

This content applies to England

Steps that can be taken to tackle a problem and the role of residents’ groups, including reporting the matter to the landlord or the police and collecting evidence.

First steps

When a problem first occurs, occupiers affected by antisocial behaviour may initially speak directly to the person responsible if they are confident of a reasonable response and that the behaviour might stop. This should not be attempted if there is a risk of violence.

Where discussing the problem with the perpetrator is not successful, the police, local authorities and private registered providers of social housing (PRPSH) are encouraged to work together to combat antisocial behaviour. This may involve sharing information about arrests and convictions, which, if the perpetrator is a council or PRPSH tenant, could be used as evidence when seeking a possession order or considering whether the tenancy should be demoted.

Deciding whether to take further action

There are many reasons why people may be reluctant to take action against the perpetrators of harassment and/or antisocial behaviour. An occupier may choose to either tolerate the situation as best they can or, in extreme cases, to abandon their home. People subjected to harassment or antisocial behaviour may choose not to report the matter to the relevant agency, for fear that the problem will escalate, or that the perpetrators will retaliate and become violent. Alternatively, they may believe that if they complain, little or no action will be taken to remedy the nuisance.

Public sector landlords, the police and other relevant agencies have powers and duties to enable them to tackle the problem of antisocial behaviour. It may be possible to acquire evidence without neighbours having to act as witnesses, for example by using professional witnesses such as police or environmental health officers. The courts have found that providing hearsay evidence in this way does not necessarily prevent a fair trial.[1]

Local authorities and PRPSHs should work in partnership with other public agencies to prevent and tackle antisocial behaviour in the neighbourhoods where they own homes and publish a policy on how they will do so.[2] They should also consider whether the complainant requires support, and how best this could be provided.[3]

Reporting problems to the landlord and/or the local authority

Where the perpetrator is a tenant of a social landlord, the complainant may approach their housing officer and/or the perpetrator's housing officer, to take up the matter. All local authorities, PRPSHs and housing action trusts are required to produce and publish policies and procedures on antisocial behaviour.[4]

Many local authorities, especially the larger ones, employ dedicated antisocial behaviour teams, community support teams and/or race relations teams. They may also have referral arrangements with independent mediation services.

If the problem involves complaints of noise or other forms of statutory nuisance, it should also be reported to the local authority's environmental health department. This applies regardless of whether the perpetrator is a private or public sector tenant, a licensee or an owner-occupier.

Reporting problems to the police

Incidents of violence, criminal behaviour and/or potential breaches of the peace should be reported to the police. The intervention of the police can sometimes bring about an end to the problems, and may prove useful if evidence is needed later on.

Where appropriate, the police can refer cases to the Crown Prosecution Service to determine whether the perpetrators should be prosecuted.

Community remedies

The community trigger gives victims of persistent antisocial behaviour the right to demand a review of their complaints and that action is taken to resolve them. The community remedy allows victims of low-level crime and antisocial behaviour an input into the out-of-court punishment of perpetrators.

Residents' groups

Residents may wish to form a tenants or residents' group or join a neighbourhood watch scheme. Such groups can assist in information gathering against perpetrators of antisocial behaviour and participate in community development work to promote crime and disorder prevention as part of a safer estates agreement. In some areas, tenants' groups intervene informally by talking to suspected perpetrators.

Collecting evidence

The agency investigating the complaint will usually require evidence before taking further action.

The complainant should keep a diary detailing:

  • the nature of the harassment/antisocial behaviour
  • the impact of the behaviour on the complainant, her/his family and any visitors
  • dates and times of incident(s)
  • the duration of the incident(s)
  • the identity of the perpetrator(s), if known
  • whether there were any witnesses to the incident(s)

Photographs may also prove useful.

If legal action is taken, the courts will require evidence and may request witnesses for both parties to provide witness statements and/or to attend the hearing. Where violence has occurred or witnesses are in fear of violence should their identity be disclosed, it might be appropriate for the agency dealing with the complaint to use CCTV/video footage and/or professional witnesses. Professional witnesses give evidence as result of seeing or doing something in the course of their everyday job and might include, for example police officers or environmental health officers. Hearsay evidence given by a housing officer (for example diary entries) is admissible in witness statements in interim injunctions and at a final trial.[5]

Negotiation and mediation

Addressing the problem at an early stage, for example through negotiation or mediation, may prevent the need for more lengthy and costly involvement, which could ultimately lead to the perpetrator's eviction.

To stop the problem escalating, the landlord may intervene to mediate, resulting in an amicable settlement, which is satisfactory to all the parties concerned. The housing officer should take details from the complainant of the alleged antisocial behaviour and then contact the alleged perpetrator, by writing or visiting, to get their side of the story before deciding on the appropriate action to take.

Where the tenant complained about is vulnerable (for example because of mental health issues) and/or there have been incidents of violence, criminal behaviour or potential breaches of the peace, a multi-agency approach may be required to achieve the desired result.

In addition, as a general rule, a court hearing civil proceedings can order the defendant to pay the claimant an additional amount, not exceeding a prescribed percentage of the amount awarded to the claimant by the court, if the:[6]

  • defendant does not accept the claimant's offer to settle, and
  • court subsequently gives judgment for the claimant which is at least as advantageous as the offer

Different prescribed amounts apply depending on whether the proceedings involve money claims only, both money and non-money claims, or non-money claims only.[7]

[1] Clingham v Kensington and Chelsea RLBC, 11 January 2001, QBD.

[2] para 2.10 Tackling anti-social behaviour: tools and powers for social landlords, DCLG, 2010.

[3] Part 3 Tackling anti-social behaviour: tools and powers for social landlords, DCLG, 2010.

[4] s.12 Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003.

[5] s.1 Civil Evidence Act 1995 and Civil Procedure Rules 33.1.

[6] s.55 Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, in force since 1 October 2012 under art. 2(b) The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Commencement No. 2 and Specification of Commencement Date) Order 2012 SI 2012/2412.

[7] The Offers to Settle in Civil Proceedings Order 2013 SI 2013/93.

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