Tougher powers to address anti-social behaviour should extend to PRS

Proposed changes to legislation in Northern Ireland would expand the definition of anti-social behaviour to include provisions around housing, putting it on a par with other parts of the UK. However, absolute grounds for possession are limited to the social rented sector, and the measures will not avoid the remaining difficulties with evicting troublesome tenants that are still seen in England and Wales.

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A joint consultation from The Department for Communities (DfC) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) puts forward proposals to amend existing legislation to ensure there are effective and proportionate ways to tackle anti-social behaviour (ASB) and its effects. The proposals relate to Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs); drinking in public; injunctions against anti-social behaviour; and absolute grounds for possession.

Agent insight shows room for improvements

Propertymark welcomes the move to tackle ASB by tenants. Our member agents have often expressed frustration that the necessary evidence-gathering is both difficult and time-consuming. As a result, many tenants guilty of ASB are left in properties where they continue  to affect local communities negatively.

The experience of our members in England and Wales make clear that there are still significant issues with evicting anti-social tenants, and we strongly suggest the DfC and DoJ consider our recommendations to strengthen the proposals.

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27 Mar 2023
Landlords to be given more powers to evict unruly tenants

Extend possession ground for the PRS

We support an amendment to establish an absolute ground for possession of secure tenancies and we request that the Departments consider extending this absolute ground into the private rented sector as an explicit reason that a landlord can evict a private tenant.

This would be more effective than the existing powers for landlords to evict a tenant as there would be a clear written absolute ground for a landlord to reference during eviction proceedings.

Clear guidance is essential

Local authorities must ensure that the property sector has reliable guidance on what should be considered ASB.

This will allow landlords to begin the eviction process with confidence that cases will not be dismissed in court, and also protect tenants who are not engaging in ASB from being wrongly accused.

Support police engagement

Local police forces should work with landlords and housing providers so they can gather the evidence they need to build effective cases against tenants which result in an eviction.

Speed up court processes

Ministers should explore the viability of a specialist housing court to help increase the speed with which evictions can take place and make sure that judgements are more consistent.

Introduce competency standards for letting agents

Minimum qualifications and training will improve the ability of agents to resolve disputes, make more informed decisions on what constitutes ASB and effectively help landlords through the eviction process.

Propertymark believes that all property agents should be qualified. Without minimum entry requirements for agents to practise, consumers are potentially dealing with someone who does not understand the technicalities of buying, selling, or renting property or how to analyse the level of risk to their business.

Ensuring agents are suitably qualified and meet minimum competency standards is the only sure way to drive up standards of service for consumers and eliminate bad practices in the sector.

The Departments must acknowledge and address the challenges facing other UK nations. We have seen that evicting tenants who are engaging in anti-social behaviour can be difficult, and we therefore encourage the Department for Communities to consider including a clear absolute ground for possession of private tenancies as well.

Nonetheless, this is a positive move that provides landlords in Northern Ireland with additional powers to evict tenants who are convicted of anti-social behaviour. Propertymark hopes both Departments will listen to our solutions to address the difficulties of evicting these tenants in England and Wales, as part of a long-term solution.

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Henry Griffith Policy and Campaigns Officer | Propertymark
Download the full consultation response