Anti-social behaviour in housing
There is no precise definition of anti-social behaviour in housing. Broadly, it is acting in a way that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. To be anti-social behaviour, the behaviour must be persistent.
There may be a fine line between anti-social behaviour and disputes between neighbours over relatively minor inconveniences, although these may, if persistent, become anti-social behaviour. Anti-social behaviour can include:
- intimidation of neighbours and others through threats or actual violence
- harassment, including racial harassment
- verbal abuse
- homophobic behaviour
- systematic bullying of children in public recreation grounds, on the way to school or even on school grounds, if normal school disciplinary procedures do not stop the behaviour
- abusive behaviour aimed at causing distress or fear to certain people, for example, elderly or disabled people
- dumping rubbish
- animal nuisance, including dog fouling
- vandalism, property damage and graffiti.
If you want to take action about anti-social behaviour you should first try and establish who is responsible for the behaviour. It is also important to establish whether the behaviour is deliberate or unintentional.
What you do will depend on the type of behaviour you are complaining about and on the result you want. You may, for example, want one or more of the following:-
- to have the anti-social behaviour stopped
- to get compensation for any damage, loss or injury suffered
- to get an apology
- to be re-housed elsewhere
- to have the people responsible for the behaviour moved or evicted.
To deal with anti-social behaviour you can do one or more of the following:
- take action yourself, including going to court if you want compensation or an order to stop the behaviour from recurring (see under heading Taking action yourself)
- get the landlord to take action (see under heading What the landlord can do)
- get the local authority to take action (Northern Ireland Housing Executive in Northern Ireland) (see under heading What the local authority can do)
- get the police to take action (see under heading What the police can do).
If you want to take action about anti-social behaviour you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
If you want to take action about anti-social behaviour you can:
- contact the tenants’ or residents' association where you live (if there is one), particularly over behaviour that may also be affecting other people
- seek mediation (see below)
- start a criminal prosecution in court, which could lead to the perpetrator being fined or imprisoned
- take civil court action to claim compensation and/or apply for an order to stop the perpetrator continuing with their behaviour.
If you are considering taking court action you will need the help of an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
If you just want the behaviour to stop and do not wish to take legal action, you could consider a mediation scheme. Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party helps two or more people in dispute to seek a mutually acceptable solution informally. Community mediation services deal with disputes between neighbours and in the community, including noise, children, pets, parking and burglaries. Mediation is usually free.
Mediation is an appropriate course of action if both parties are willing to go through with it. Mediation can take the form of direct, ‘round the table’ discussion, where the parties in dispute meet on neutral ground. If they are unwilling to meet, the mediators will act as intermediaries, conveying messages between each of the parties.
To search for a mediator in your area who could help, visit the Ministry of Justice website at www.justice.gov.uk.
Mediation Network (Northern Ireland)
The Mediation Network is free and confidential. It can put neighbours in touch with a trained mediator in their area. The mediator's role is to encourage each party to talk freely, explain their point of view, find common ground and come up with an agreed way forward.
The address of the Mediation Network is:
You can ask your landlord to take action about anti-social behaviour. You should find out whether the landlord has a policy and procedure for dealing with anti-social behaviour. Local authority landlords must have anti-social behaviour policies in place. In England and Wales, this also applies to housing association landlords.
Any landlord can take action against anti-social behaviour, although it is more likely that local authorities and housing associations will be willing to do so. Remember that landlords can choose whether or not to take action, but do not have to do so.
A landlord could:
- ask the police or the local authority to take action - see under heading What the police can do or see under heading What the local authority can do
- go to court to get the person behaving in an anti-social way evicted, if they are a tenant or leaseholder
- in England and Wales, apply to the court for an injunction to prevent nuisance and annoyance, if the landlord is a local authority or housing association
- in Northern Ireland, apply to court for an anti-social behaviour order, if the landlord is a local authority or housing association
- in England and Wales, apply to the court for an order to stop gang violence or protect someone against gang violence, if the landlord is a local authority
- re-house the victim, or the person behaving in an anti-social way. This is very unlikely unless the landlord is a local authority or other social landlord.
Local authority landlords have some additional options. They can:
- extend the period of an introductory tenancy
- apply for a court order to suspend a tenant's right to buy
- refuse to allow a tenant to exchange with another tenant.
Local authority and other social landlords such as housing associations, can also:
- in England and Wales, apply for a court order to 'demote' someone's tenancy. This will make it easier for the landlord to evict a tenant whose behaviour does not improve
- in England, change someone's tenancy to a 'family intervention tenancy'. This means that the tenant and their family must agree to get professional help and support to change their behaviour. If their behaviour doesn't improve or they don't use the services offered, they can be evicted.
The person you are complaining about may have a tenancy agreement which forbids certain types of behaviour, for example, harassment, drug dealing or noise. If they break any of these conditions, this could lead to the person being evicted.
If you want to complain about a local authority or housing association tenant, you will normally be able to do this through a housing officer. If they are not a local authority or housing association tenant, you may have to contact their landlord or the landlord's agent.
As a person who is suffering anti-social behaviour you can ask the local authority to deal with it, regardless of whether you are a local authority tenant or not. The local authority can:
- apply to a court for an order or injunction to stop or prevent someone's anti-social behaviour in its area
- in England and Wales, apply to the court for an order to stop gang violence or to protect someone from gang violence
- in England and Wales, apply to court for an order to close premises where there is ongoing disorder or nuisance
- take action to stop noise, nuisance and threats to health
- take action to evict the person responsible for the behaviour, if they are a local authority tenant
- offer the victim alternative accommodation
- prosecute where the behaviour is a criminal offence
- in England and Wales, take over management of a property where there are particularly serious anti-social behaviour problems.
If you want to ask the local authority to take action about anti-social behaviour, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
The police can take action about any anti-social behaviour which is a criminal offence and can prosecute someone who has:
- attacked another person, causing physical and/or psychological damage
- wilfully damaged someone else’s property
- behaved in a threatening or abusive way in order to intimidate or frighten or cause harassment, alarm or distress intentionally, for example, by stalking you or writing anti-gay slogans on the wall outside your home
- incited racial hatred or violence by, for example, distributing racist leaflets.
In England and Wales, the police can also get a court order to close down premises which are causing disruption to residents because of some serious disorder or nuisance problem.
You should bear in mind that the police have discretion whether or not to prosecute someone.
The police can issue on the spot fines (penalty notices) for some types of anti-social behaviour. In England and Wales, they can also apply to court for an injunction to prevent nuisance and annoyance, or an order to stop gang violence or protect someone against gang violence. In Northern Ireland, they can apply to court for an anti-social behaviour order.
The police must take very seriously complaints about anti-social behaviour which is discriminating against you. If you think they haven't taken your complaint seriously enough, or if you think the police are discriminating against you, you may want to make a complaint about the police.
For more information about how to make a complaint about the police, see Complaints in Police powers.
In England and Wales, community support officers can take action about anti-social behaviour in certain circumstances. For example:
- they can order people to stop cycling on the pavement
- disperse groups of young people who are gathering in a public place
- take children home after 9pm
- deal with young people truanting from school, including taking them back to school
- issue on the spot fines.
In Wales, you can find more information about anti-social behaviour in housing by contacting the Community Safety Division of the Welsh Government on 0845 010 3300.