Anti-social behaviour Action Plan
The Action Plan puts forward a number of proposals to help registered providers combat anti-social behaviour.
The Government has recently published its Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan (“the Action Plan”) outlining proposals for combating anti-social behaviour in England and Wales.
The Prime Minister, in the foreword, refers to strong communities being bound by a “golden thread” – the “golden thread” that people should treat others as they would like to be treated. It is the Government’s intention that the Action Plan will strengthen the “golden thread” and stop “anti-social behaviour in its tracks”.
The three point Action Plan sets out the Government’s proposals to:
- Make sure anti-social behaviour is treated with the urgency it deserves;
- Change laws and systems to take a zero-tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour;
- Give the police and other agencies the tools they need to discourage anti-social behaviour.
The Action Plan references a 2022 survey in which it was found that over one in four social housing residents had been affected by anti-social behaviour in the last year. 55% of those who reported anti-social behaviour were dissatisfied with the outcome and 40% of those affected by anti-social behaviour who did not report the behaviour did not do so because they did not believe their landlord would act on it.
The Action Plan includes a number of proposals relevant to different sectors. However, those most relevant to registered providers we believe are as follows:
One proposal the Action Plan puts forward is to consult on the possibility of expanding current closure powers to shut down properties where nuisance or disorder is being perpetrated to include extending the powers to registered providers to enable them to directly address anti-social behaviour.
The present closure powers are a two stage process whereby premises can be closed where they have resulted, or are likely soon to result in, nuisance to members of the public or disorder associated with the use of the premises, initially, for a period of forty eight hours by way of closure notice and, subsequently, to a maximum of six months, by way of closure order.
It would be a positive step to expand the current powers to enable registered providers to seek closure themselves, particularly where the registered provider owns the property in question. It remains to be seen, however, how the powers would apply to registered providers in the event that the property in question is not owned by them.
It is also worth noting that having obtained a closure order enables the use of the mandatory ground for possession, therefore speeding up the process of obtaining a closure order should, in effect, speed up the process of obtaining a possession order.
The Action Plan proposes a three strikes policy whereby following three proven instances of anti-social behaviour and three warnings from a landlord, somebody engaging in anti-social behaviour should face eviction and should be “deprioritised from further social housing”.
The Action Plan sets out the Government’s intention to reduce the notice period to two weeks for any anti-social behaviour eviction grounds and to make anti-social behaviour easier to prove in court by clarifying that “any behaviour ‘capable’ of causing ‘nuisance or annoyance’ can lead to eviction”.
Whilst the Action Plan sets out the Government’s broad approach, there is no clarity on how the three strikes policy would work in practice, such as what would constitute three proven instances of anti-social behaviour, and how the clarification of what constitutes anti-social behaviour is to be applied in the context of existing powers available.
The Action Plan also proposes that social housing allocation guidance is updated to make it clear that perpetrators of anti-social behaviour should be de-prioritised and “at the back of the queue for social housing”.
Whilst it remains to be seen how any allocation guidance will be updated the proposal to put anti-social perpetrators to the back of the queue would significantly penalise the perpetrators.
The Action Plan also proposes to extend police powers of arrest to breaches of all civil injunctions removing the need to seek a power of arrest.
Whilst, in principle, expanding the power of arrest to cover all breaches of civil injunctions is beneficial, how effective such a power will be is largely dependent on police willingness to exercise the power in the case of more minor instances of anti-social behaviour.
The Action Plan also proposes to extend dispersal powers to local authorities and extend the length to 72 hours and extending public spaces protection order to the police.
The Action Plan puts forward a number of proposals to help registered providers combat anti-social behaviour within their housing stock with such proposals appearing to be positive steps designed to make the process of combating anti-social behaviour easier, and quicker, for registered providers. It is, however, important to highlight that at the moment all of the proposals are just that, proposals, and how effective they will be in helping registered providers will largely be dependent upon how they are implemented in practice.
Read the full policy paper Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan