This information applies to Scotland
What is antisocial behaviour
There is no precise definition of antisocial behaviour. Broadly, it is acting in a way that causes or is likely to cause alarm or distress to one or more people in another household. To be antisocial behaviour, the behaviour must be persistent.
There may be a fine line between antisocial behaviour and disputes between neighbours over relatively minor inconveniences, although these may, if persistent, become antisocial behaviour. Antisocial behaviour can include:
- shouting, swearing and fighting
- intimidation of neighbours and others through threats or actual violence
- harassment, including racial harassment or sectarian aggression. More about harassment
- verbal abuse
- 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
- driving in an inconsiderate or careless way, for example, drivers congregating in an area for racing
- dumping rubbish
- animal nuisance, including dog fouling
- vandalism, property damage and graffiti.
Antisocial behaviour in holiday accommodation
You might be disrupted by antisocial behaviour from property near yours that is rented out for short holidays, for example, or at weekends for a party. There are legal powers that can be used by the local authority, to control this problem. It can apply for a court order to force the owners of the property to control the behaviour of anyone that rents it. In the worst cases a sheriff court can issue a court order that allows the local authority to take over the management of the property for a year.
What can you do about antisocial behaviour
If you want to take action about antisocial 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 antisocial behaviour stopped
- to get compensation for any damage, loss or injury suffered
- to get an apology
- to be rehoused elsewhere
- the people responsible for the behaviour to be moved/evicted.
To deal with antisocial behaviour you can do one or more of the following:
|Option||More about this option|
|Take action yourself||If you just want the behaviour to stop and don't want to take legal action, several local organisations may be able to help.|
|Ask your local authority to take action||Your local authority must have an antisocial behaviour strategy in place.|
|Ask the landlord to take action||Both private and public sector landlords must take steps to address any difficulties. This can include taking steps to bring the tenancy to an end.|
|Contact the police||The police have a range of powers for addressing antisocial behaviour.|
|Contact the community warden||Community wardens can, for example, act as professional witnesses to antisocial behaviour or organise rapid graffiti removal.|
If you want to take action about antisocial behaviour you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, a Citizens Advice Bureau.
Take action yourself
If you want to take action about antisocial behaviour you can:
- contact the tenants’ association where you live (if there is one), particularly over behaviour that may also be affecting other people
- contact the community warden scheme in your area (if there is one)
- seek mediation (see below)
- take civil proceedings in court 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.
If you really can't get on with your neighbour, you may think that your only course of action is to move. If you own your home and you move because of neighbour problems, a prospective buyer must not be misled by you or the estate agent about the problems that you've had. If a buyer asks if there is a current neighbour dispute and you or the estate agent doesn’t disclose it the buyer may have grounds to withdraw from the sale and take legal action for breach of contract.
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.
Scottish Mediation provides information about the range of mediation services in Scotland and can give details of what schemes exist in local areas. There is a useful map of mediation services in Scotland on their website.
Ask the landlord to take action
You can ask your landlord to take action about antisocial behaviour. You should find out whether the landlord has a policy and procedure for dealing with antisocial behaviour. Local authority landlords must have antisocial behaviour strategies in place.
All landlords should take reports of antisocial behaviour seriously. Although local authorities and housing associations may have more resources to deal with problems, private landlords must also take steps to address any difficulties.
If private landlords do not respond to complaints of antisocial behaviour in relation to their tenants, occupiers or visitors to the property they own, the local authority can serve an antisocial behaviour notice (ASBN) on the landlord. An ASBN will set out steps that the landlord must take in order to tackle the antisocial behaviour.
If the private landlord does not take these steps, the local authority can do a number of things, including obtaining a rent penalty order or a management control order. A rent penalty order means that no rent is payable on the property until the landlord addresses the problem of antisocial behaviour. A management control order means that the local authority takes over the landlord’s functions in relation to the property. In extreme cases, the local authority can refer the landlord to the Procurator Fiscal for prosecution as it is a criminal offence to fail to comply with an antisocial behaviour notice.
If you have requested that a private landlord take action to deal with antisocial behaviour in their property and they have not taken reasonable steps to deal with the problem, you should contact your local authority.
There are a number of steps that a landlord can take to deal with antisocial behaviour:
- ask the police or the local authority to take action
- go to court to get the person behaving in an antisocial way evicted or take steps to bring the tenancy to an end
- apply to court for an antisocial behaviour order, if the landlord is a local authority or housing association
- rehouse the victim, or the person behaving in an antisocial way. This is very unlikely unless the landlord is a local authority or a registered social landlord.
If someone with a public sector tenancy has an antisocial behaviour order against them, their tenancy can be changed to a short Scottish secure tenancy. This means they would not have had the right to buy, and their landlord is unlikely to allow an exchange with another tenant.
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.
Ask your local authority to take action
As a person who is suffering antisocial behaviour you can ask your local authority to deal with it, regardless of whether you are a local authority tenant or not. Your local authority can:
- apply to a court for an order to stop or prevent violent antisocial behaviour in its area
- apply to a court for an order to stop public nuisance, which includes drug-dealing
- 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
- send reports of any criminal offence to the Procurator Fiscal who will consider whether to prosecute having considered these reports and reports from the police
- take action to ensure that private landlords deal with the antisocial behaviour of their tenants.
Contact the police
The police can take action about any antisocial behaviour which is a criminal offence. They can refer someone to the Procurator Fiscal 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. More about harassment
- incited racial or religious hatred or violence. More about racist or religious hate crime.
The police have the power to disperse groups of people who persistently act in an antisocial way.
The police can issue on the spot fines (fixed penalty notices) for some types of antisocial behaviour, such as littering and dog fouling or singing after being asked to stop.
When local bye laws are in place it is an offence to drink alcohol outside and police can ask you to stop drinking if they think it is likely to cause antisocial behaviour.
The police have powers to seize and retain vehicles if the owner has been driving in such a way as to cause alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public.
The police can also apply for a court order to close down properties where there has been serious or persistent antisocial behaviour. Entering the property will then become an offence and the property will be sealed. These closure orders are likely to be used in a number of situations, for example where properties are used as drinking dens, for drug dealing or prostitution and there is a high degree of disruption and disorder as a result.
You can report an incident of antisocial behaviour directly to the police by visiting your local police station or by phone. You can find details of how to contact the police on the Police Scotland website.
The police must take very seriously complaints about antisocial behaviour which is discriminating against you. If you think that your complaint has not been taken seriously enough or if you think the police are discriminating against you, you may want to make a complaint. More about complaints against the police
Community wardens aim to improve the quality of life in local areas by reducing crime or the fear of crime, reducing antisocial behaviour and improving the quality of the local environment. The activities of community warden schemes will vary between local schemes. They may include reporting antisocial behaviour and acting as professional witnesses or helping clear up litter or graffiti.
You can find out whether there is a community warden scheme in your area by contacting your local council. Council contact details can be found on the mygov.scot website.