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Neighbours From Hell: Local Authority Powers

The Housing Act 2004 contains a variety of measures designed to protect householders from the ‘neighbour from hell’, through measures targeting private landlords who turn a blind eye to disruptive behaviour by their tenants.

The Act includes a regime of compulsory licensing of landlords in designated problem areas. All private landlords are required to obtain from their local housing authority a licence to rent properties used for multiple occupation. The granting of such licences depends on whether the landlord is a fit and proper person to let property and requires that certain minimum standards are met. Landlords now have to manage their tenants properly, policing noisy or disruptive tenants appropriately and evicting them where necessary. This measure was introduced with the intention of helping local authorities to stop bad landlords and anti-social tenants from undermining other measures in place to help neighbourhoods that are in decline.

In addition, the Government  strengthened the hand of local authorities to deal with problem tenants by updating the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003. One of the more controversial aspects of this was the introduction in June 2005 of Part 8 of the Act, which gives local authorities powers to deal with complaints about high hedges, if a recalcitrant neighbour refuses to do so.

Recently, it has been proposed that landlords be given the right, in appropriate circumstances, to evict tenants who have been proven to have acted in an anti-social manner. The proposals are described as part of ‘a radically simplified and streamlined toolkit of powers for social landlords and other agencies to tackle anti-social behaviour’, which it is hoped will reduce the time lag between an application for possession being made and the order being granted.

The proposals would allow a court to grant the landlord possession in cases in which there has been violent disorder or theft linked to violent disorder (looting), and would apply where the guilty party is the tenant or a member of their household. It would not be necessary for the misbehaviour to be linked to the vicinity of the property occupied by the tenant. Other grounds on which a possession order may be sought are serious housing-related offences, breaches of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders and behaviour giving rise to a closure order. What is strikingly different from the current position is that the possession order will be mandatory. It will not depend on whether the repossession is reasonable or proportionate.

IN 2012, the Government introduced legislation that effectively allows social landlords to give new tenants 'trial' leases and to evict them if they are disorderly and disruptive to their neighbours.

In July 2017, a suspended jail sentence for contempt of court was imposed on a council tenant for failing to abide by an order of the court to stop excessive noise disturbance to other tenants, caused by his daughter who was living with him without permission.