Landlords:  How to deal with Anti Social Behaviour from you Tenants

Landlords: How to deal with Anti Social Behaviour from you Tenants

Anti-social behaviour remains a persistent concern in England, with over a million reports annually. A 2021 survey highlighted that nearly one-third (32%) of landlords terminated tenancies due to such behaviour.

The government has rolled out various initiatives, ranging from the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan to the introduction of selective licensing under the Fairer Private Renter Sector, aiming to address this issue.

Consequences aren't limited to unruly tenants alone; landlords and letting agents can also bear the brunt of their tenants' misconduct. The government's Selective Licensing Schemes aim to ensure proper management of privately rented properties. Non-compliance can result in hefty fines, with some landlords facing repair costs exceeding £150,000 due to drug-related activities on their premises.

What Constitutes Anti-Social Behaviour?
As per the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, anti-social behaviour is defined as any action causing or likely to cause harassment, alarm, or distress to individuals not from the same household.

Common manifestations of housing-related anti-social behaviour include:

- Persistent loud noise from music, TV, or other sources
- Improper disposal of rubbish or litter around the property
- Disruptive drunken behaviour affecting neighbours
- Intimidation or harassment of others
- Utilising the property for illegal activities

More severe forms of anti-social behaviour encompass illegal drug operations and instances of modern slavery.

Impacts of Illegal Drug Activity on Landlords and Letting Agents
The repercussions of illegal drug activities aren't confined to the tenants involved. In a 2022 incident, a London-based landlord had to bear repair costs amounting to £150,000 after discovering illegal cannabis farms in their rental properties. Additionally, the managing letting agent faced legal action for alleged negligence.

Landlords can also find themselves legally accountable, particularly if they are aware of such illicit activities but fail to report them. According to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981, landlords can be held liable for:

- Producing or attempting to produce illegal controlled substances
- Supplying or attempting to supply illegal controlled substances
- Preparing to smoke opium
- Smoking cannabis, cannabis resin, or prepared opium.


How Can Landlords and Letting Agents Counteract Anti-Social Behaviour?

Preventing anti-social behaviour starts with landlords and letting agents knowing their tenants. That's where pre-tenancy checks come into play.

Carrying out thorough referencing checks provides landlords and letting agents with peace of mind about their potential tenants. Companies like Vouch offer tools to help letting agents conduct these checks, while others like Goodlord provide specialized in-house teams to cater to various referencing needs.

For those still feeling wary about prospective tenants, arranging a pre-tenancy meeting before finalizing the agreement can be beneficial. This allows the letting agent or landlord to discuss the property details with the tenant and highlight any clauses related to anti-social behaviour they should be aware of.


What Steps Should Letting Agents and Landlords Take When Faced with Anti-Social Behaviour by a Tenant?

When a tenant engages in anti-social behaviour, it may violate the terms of their tenancy agreement.

Before taking the drastic step of eviction due to anti-social behaviour, landlords and letting agents should follow certain procedures. This involves issuing a written warning to the tenant, outlining the consequences if the behaviour persists.

If the anti-social behaviour persists despite the warning, landlords may contemplate reaching out to the police or local authorities, or potentially terminating the tenancy ahead of schedule.


Is it Possible for Landlords or Letting Agents to Terminate a Tenancy Early Due to Anti-Social Behaviour?

In line with the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, the government aims to tackle anti-social behaviour more robustly in 2024. This initiative aims to make it ‘simpler to remove tenants who consistently exhibit disrespectful and disruptive behaviour towards their neighbours’.

Landlords and letting agents have the authority to evict tenants using either section 21 or section 8 legislation for continuous anti-social conduct.

Under section 21, landlords can opt for a 'no-fault' eviction, eliminating the need to specify anti-social behaviour as the reason and instead concluding the tenancy.

However, with the proposed Renters (Reform) Bill on the horizon, section 21 might be phased out, contingent upon “significant improvements in the court system”. This avenue of eviction may not be an option for landlords going forward.

In contrast, landlords and letting agents can resort to serving a Section 8 notice when there is substantial evidence of anti-social behaviour. To do so, they need to complete a ‘Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy’.

In severe cases, landlords can expedite the eviction process by issuing a mandatory eviction notice with a reduced notice period of just two weeks.


Identifying Signs of Illegal Drug Activity in a Rental Property

Maintaining a safe and lawful environment is paramount . Being vigilant about activities within rental properties is crucial to prevent potential issues that can adversely affect both the property and the surrounding community. Regular property inspections, when conducted with proper notice, can provide valuable insights into the activities taking place within the rented space.

Why Regular Inspections Matter

Regular property inspections offer landlords and letting agents the opportunity to monitor the condition of the property and ensure it is being used appropriately. While respecting tenants' privacy is essential, periodic visits can help identify any suspicious activities that may warrant further investigation.

Signs to Watch Out For

Here are some key indicators that may suggest illegal drug activity is taking place in a rental property:

1. Unusual Chemical Smells:
- Strong and unfamiliar chemical odours, especially those resembling solvents or cleaning agents, can be a red flag. These smells may indicate the production or cultivation of illegal substances.

2. Presence of Illegal Drug Paraphernalia:
- Discovering items such as syringes, pipes, or other drug-related paraphernalia within the property is a clear indication of illicit drug use or distribution.

3. Blackout Windows or Curtains:
- If blackout windows or curtains are installed after a tenant moves in, it may be an attempt to conceal activities within the property. Such modifications can indicate secretive behaviour and should be investigated further.

4. Abnormally High Utility Bills:
- A sudden and significant increase in utility bills, especially for electricity or water, might suggest the presence of equipment used in illegal drug production or cultivation.

Best Practices for Landlords and Letting Agents

To effectively monitor and address potential illegal activities, landlords and letting agents should adopt the following best practices:

- Establish Clear Communication:
- Maintain open lines of communication with tenants and encourage them to report any suspicious activities or concerns.

- Educate Tenants:
- Provide tenants with information on the terms of their tenancy agreement, including clauses related to illegal activities, to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities.

- Document Findings:
- Keep detailed records of property inspections, noting any irregularities or concerns observed. This documentation can be invaluable if legal action becomes necessary.

- Consult Legal Advice:
- If there are suspicions of illegal drug activity, seek legal counsel to understand the rights and responsibilities of landlords and letting agents in addressing such issues.

By staying proactive and informed, landlords and letting agents can help maintain a safe and lawful environment for tenants and the wider community, while also protecting their property investment.


What Should Letting Agents and Landlords Do Upon Suspecting Illegal Drug Activity in a Property?

When letting agents or landlords suspect illegal activities taking place in their rental property, prompt action is crucial to mitigate potential consequences.

Approaching the Tenants

If comfortable, letting agents or landlords may choose to directly communicate their concerns with the tenants. This open dialogue can help clarify any misunderstandings and may prompt the tenants to address the issue. However, if direct communication is not an option due to safety concerns or discomfort, alternative steps should be taken.

Involving Law Enforcement

In cases where direct communication with tenants is not feasible or when immediate intervention is required, contacting law enforcement is advised. The police have the authority to investigate suspected illegal activities and can search the property without requiring the landlord or letting agent to be present.

Gathering Evidence

To support any potential legal actions, landlords should document any suspicious activities observed within the property. Taking photographs or videos can provide valuable evidence to substantiate claims of illegal drug activity. It is essential to gather sufficient evidence before proceeding with eviction notices or legal actions.

Legal Recourse

If there is substantial evidence supporting the suspicion of illegal drug activity, landlords can consider issuing a Section 8 notice to initiate eviction proceedings against tenants involved in drug-related offences, whether as users or suppliers.

Upcoming Changes

It's worth noting that there may be forthcoming changes to eviction procedures. Conservative ministers have proposed amendments to the Renters (Reform) Bill that could allow the consideration of “hearsay” evidence in eviction claims related to antisocial behaviour. This potential change could streamline the eviction process for landlords facing challenges in gathering concrete evidence of illegal activities.

Landlords and letting agents should act swiftly and cautiously when suspecting illegal drug activity in a rental property. By following proper procedures and seeking legal guidance when necessary, they can effectively address the issue while safeguarding their property and interests.

Added: March 29, 2024 09:02:32