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Coronavirus Act 2020 and anti-social behaviour

The provisions of the Act apply regardless of what grounds for possession are being used, even in cases of serious anti-social behaviour.

The Queen granted the emergency Coronavirus legislation royal assent on 25 March 2020 and it is now in force.

Under the Coronavirus Act 2020 (the “Act”), notices requiring possession of property may not expire any earlier than 3 months after the date of service and this applies regardless of what grounds are being relied on. This applies for all notices served from 26 March 2020 until at least 30 September 2020.

Previously, under Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988, if a notice seeking possession is served, relying on Ground 14 (Anti-social behaviour) then possession proceedings can be issued immediately upon service of the notice (unless Ground 7A is also being relied upon). This is a particularly useful tool where a tenant’s behaviour poses a risk or has a significant impact upon neighbours.

The provisions of the Act apply regardless of what grounds for possession are being used, even in cases of serious anti-social behaviour.

Additionally, the majority of courts are closed. Possession hearings are being adjourned to at least June and non-urgent matters are not being dealt with.

In times where families are out of work and school, and confined to their homes, anti-social behaviour is expected to increase. So what can be done to try to manage anti-social behaviour in the meantime?

This is really going to depend on the nature and effect of the anti-social behaviour. You will no doubt still wish to serve any notice seeking possession on a tenant, so that the notice period may begin to run and to impress upon the tenant the seriousness of their behaviour.

The prescribed forms of Section 8 and Section 21 notice have now been amended and are available on the Government website. Always ensure that the latest form of notice is being used.

Form 6A: for a no fault possession notice on an assured shorthold tenancy

Form 3: notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy

We would also recommend that any covering letters outline the recent changes.

The Act does not remove the court’s discretion to dispense with service of a notice where it is just and equitable to do so. Therefore, you may wish to consider whether or not to serve a shorter notice and/or issue possession proceedings without service of a notice and seek dispensation from the court to do so. This course of action would need to be reserved for the most extreme of cases and it is likely the court will exercise this discretion stringently.

The courts are also still available for urgent matters. So if the behaviour being complained of is of a serious nature and/or results in a significant risk of harm then the court is likely to agree to deal with an injunction application on a without notice basis, by telephone. On notice applications are still available. However we expect these will be met with some delays.

Under the Anti-social Behaviour, Policing and Crime Act 2014 powers of arrest may be attached to some or all of the terms of an injunction and, if the circumstances warrant it, an exclusion order may be requested.

Exclusion orders will only be made in the most serious of cases, particularly if the applicant is requesting that the tenant be excluded from their home. In light of the government’s latest guidance on social distancing it is likely that the courts will be extremely reluctant to make any order which has the effect of excluding a tenant from their home. However, it may still be open for a request to be made to exclude someone without any rights to occupy the property.

In these current times the courts may be increasingly amenable to making more unusual orders. This could include prohibiting the tenant from allowing more than one visitor at any time or prohibiting a defendant from being in the possession of an alcoholic drink outside the property (including any garden areas).

If a power of arrest is attached to an injunction, and that injunction is suspected to be breached then the Police have powers to arrest that person who must be brought before the county court within 24 hours.

Local authorities and the Police still retain various powers to deal with anti-social behaviour; including Closure Orders, Community Protection Notices and Dispersal Orders

If the content of this update raises any issues for you, or you would like to discuss, please liaise with:

Sian Evans
Partner
sian.evans@weightmans.com

Jennifer Rogers
Associate
jennifer.rogers@weightmans.com

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