Total: £0.00

picture of telephone  click icon for access to housing law in practice reference manual for membersMailing ListTwitterFacebook  YouTube

When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

ADVISER: Investigating complaints about antisocial behaviour

Anti social behaviour is a complex issue and can be difficult to address. Anyone guilty of anti social behaviour can be at risk of losing their tenancy.

Safeguarding tenants from nuisance behaviour is an important responsibility of all social landlords, but it can be difficult for landlords to balance the rights of tenants who are complaining about antisocial neighbours with the landlord’s duties towards vulnerable tenants who may require support. 

Helping clients who are facing eviction

Dealing with allegations of antisocial behaviour can be difficult.  It is not always easy to identify the actual perpetrator of nuisance.  Once the perpetrator has been identified, there are often issues like mental ill health or substance misuse problems behind a tenant’s nuisance behaviour and the landlord must consider these issues when deciding what response is proportionate.

When advising anyone who has been accused of antisocial behaviour it is important to

  • establish what incidents are the cause of the report
  • find out what, if any, involvement your client had in these incidents
  • determine if your client has any particular vulnerabilities and what consideration has been given to these issues by the landlord when deciding on a course of action.
  • establish what action has been taken by the social landlord to date
  • work out what stage the process has reached i.e. has an NSP been served, court action started

Dealing with complaints about noise

Maria, a 21 year old care leaver with addiction issues and a history of self harm, recently asked us for help because her housing association had issued her with a Notice of Proceedings for Possession of an introductory tenancy. The housing association was taking action because it had received complaints about loud noises and excessive partying in Maria’s flat.

Maria had only been living there for 2 months when the housing association started legal action to end her tenancy, so was an introductory tenant and her rights were more limited than those of a secure tenant.  

We asked the Housing Association to provide us with details of the complaints they had received about Maria.  After some simple investigations by Housing Rights, it was clear that there had been one incident of a late night party and, in fact, Maria herself had complained about noise nuisance from neighbours.

Worryingly, the Association could not provide us with any evidence of the investigations that they had undertaken prior to serving the possession notice.

Duties on housing associations when investigating complaints about antisocial behaviour

Prior to possession action being initiated regarding anti social behaviour a Social landlord should

  • investigate any complaints received about instances of antisocial behaviour
  • substantiate these incidents in some way, e.g. the association could contact environmental health to establish if they have also received complaints or contact PSNI.
  • check if the client has any vulnerabilities that could be mitigating factors
  • offer mediation and or relevant support prior to possession action being considered if the client’s actions can be attributed to certain vulnerabilities.

Maria’s Housing Association could not prove that it had taken any of the above actions.  There were no visits to Maria’s property to investigate the matter or further discussions with the complainant, there was also no involvement of statutory bodies e.g. Noise Team (part of Environmental Health Department), or evidence of any action taken at an earlier stage to attempt to resolve the matter e.g. mediation between the neighbours. Our investigations showed that that Maria had held just one party and was not responsible for the other incidents.

The possession order was withdrawn as the Association agreed that possession action was disproportionate, particularly in light of the poor standard of investigation and lack of evidence.

The association offered Maria relevant support to help her maintain her tenancy and home. There have been no further complaints about antisocial behaviour. Our advisers helped Maria to better understand her rights and responsibilities as a tenant and, since this initial hiccup, she’s been happily getting on with her life, making friends with her neighbours and enjoying having a settled, permanent home for the first time in her life.

Human rights and possession

Social landords must consider if their actions are proportionate and must give due regard to human rights law when considering legal action to evict a tenant.  To find out more about how human rights legislation affects possession proceedings, come to our training session "Human Rights & Repossession" in June.  The course will be held in Belfast and in Derry/Londonderry

Tagged In

Repossession, Social Tenancies, Adviser

This article was written on 22 May 2015. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.