anti-social behaviour

Events of the last few months have proved challenging on many levels. One area which has proved particularly challenging is that of managing allegations of anti-social behaviour by tenants.

Over lockdown, housing providers have sought to maintain services to tenants, whilst still ensuring that tenants, staff and contractors are protected. The most recent report for the regulator (9 July 2020) finds urgent and emergency work has been completed and over 90% of providers report all or most gas safety checks are being completed. A statistic that is worthy of note as this area can be challenging even in normal times.

The challenge of anti-social behaviour

The Coronavirus Act 2020 stayed all possession and eviction cases before the Court, no matter what the reason for possession being sought or whether there was any link to the virus itself. When we factor in that anti-social behaviour possession claims can take some time to reach the Courts at all (due to the work done to try and resolve the problems without recourse to possession), this does leave a very unsatisfactory position for neighbours who bear the brunt of the behaviour and housing officers and landlords trying to resolve matters.

We have also seen complaints about anti-social behaviour related more directly to the lockdown measures. As people spend more time in their homes they are at greater exposure to any such behaviour from their neighbours, or under greater personal stress and hence perhaps less tolerant. There are also those who have failed to comply with the lockdown measures and neighbours have been reporting visitors or gatherings in breach of the restrictions.

The period of notice has been increased to three months (currently until 30 September 2020) for all grounds of possession in secure and assured tenancies thereby delaying any new claims being issued.

Current measures

Whilst possession proceedings remain stayed until 23 August 2020, and this period could be extended again, preparatory steps can still be taken.

All pre-action measures can be followed, notices can be sent, evidence collated and proceedings may be issued. There will be a large backlog of cases when the Courts are permitted to progress claims again and many landlords are issuing ahead of 24 August 2020 to ensure a place in the queue. Issuing proceedings during the stay will be particularly important where a notice was issued some time ago and is near to its one year or 6 months expiry.

Injunction proceedings have not been stayed. It is therefore possible to apply for an injunction to curb anti-social behaviour and obtain a hearing for the same. The Courts will be very cautious to not be seen to permit this to be used as a back door to obtaining possession but if the grounds are made out, there is no reason in practice why a person could not be excluded under the terms of the injunction. Even if exclusion is not sought the injunction retains the usual deterrent effect on continuing behaviour, which may include inserting a power of arrest, the ability to apply for committal if breached, and of course Ground 7A if a breach is proved.

Judges retain a very wide discretion in this area so applications should be made sparingly and with excellent supporting evidence.

In the case of particularly serious anti-social behaviour a closure notice and thereafter a closure order should be considered. This does require a multi-agency approach with the police (and local authority if not a local authority landlord) as only those bodies may apply for such. The test is whether it is reasonably believed that there is, or is likely to be a nuisance to members of the public or disorder relating to the premises in its vicinity.

The notice is valid for 48 hours, if obtained, and the closure order for three months, with an option to apply to extend to a maximum period of six months.


There remains the ability to issue proceedings without notice in certain cases (S83(1)(b) Housing Act 198, S8(1)(b) Housing Act 1988), this does of course require the Judge’s retrospective consent so should be used carefully. This is unaffected by the Coronavirus Act. This may be a particularly useful provision if there is serious anti-social behaviour in the next few weeks as well as when the stay is lifted as, if properly justified, this would avoid the three month delay after serving the usual notice. It however does not enable cases to be heard during the stay.

Other matters deemed appropriate for possession proceedings should be progressed to the point of issuing. This will enable the tenant to be warned as to how serious their behaviour is (and the risk they are placing their tenancy in) and it will reassure neighbours that they are not forgotten and remind them that it is important to keep providing information to support any claim.