Agenda item

Minutes:

In accordance with the procedures set out in the Council’s Petition Scheme, the petition on “Review of Ashfield District Councils Tenancy/Lettings Policies and Sanctions” having received in excess of 500 signatures was presented to the Committee.

 

The petition organiser, Councillor Cathy Mason, was in attendance to discuss the details of the Petition and put forward three questions for discussion. The Service Manager for Housing Management and Tenancy Services, attended the meeting to respond to the petition and questions.

 

Question 1

 

“Through the residents it was discovered that many options which currently exist in statutory law to deal with ASB are NOT currently being used by Ashfield District Council, for example, Demoted Tenancies, Sections 14 and 15 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 inserted new sections into the Housing Acts of 1985 and 1988 to give social landlords a power to apply for a ‘demotion order’ where tenants or other residents of a dwelling, or visitors to a tenant’s home, have behaved in a way which is capable of causing nuisance or annoyance, or where such a person has used the premises for illegal or immoral purposes.

 

A demotion order has the effect of ending the existing tenancy and replacing it with a less secure ‘demoted’ tenancy. This removes the tenant’s Right to Buy (where it applies) and their security of tenure for at least a year. At the end of a year, if the landlord is satisfied with the tenant’s conduct, it will revert back to either an assured tenancy (if the landlord is a housing association) or a secure tenancy (if the landlord is a local authority or Housing Action Trust). The period of demotion can be extended in certain circumstances. We therefore require a comprehensive answer to why this option is not being used, or as it is current legislation how soon can this be implemented?”

 

Response

 

“The council can ask the court to demote a tenant’s tenancy if they behave antisocially. A tenancy is demoted for 12 months, following which this is monitored. After this the tenancy automatically becomes a secure tenancy unless the council takes steps to evict the tenant.

 

In serious cases of Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB), where the tenant has been given warnings to improve their behaviour, the Council will apply for Possession of the property rather than a Demotion of the tenancy. To Demote would only delay the process and cause unnecessarily distress etc. to the complainant/victims.”

 

Question 2

 

“The residents of the petition noted that many breaches of the existing Tenancy Agreement happen but are unrecorded by ADC officers, because they were deemed small or insignificant, however this NONE RECORDING leads to a clean tenancy and automatic secure tenancy at the completion of 1 year. Accurate recording of All breaches should be a priority, even if it were equated to some kind of points system, this would alert ADC to areas of concern, and no tenancy should automatically become secure without review. The Government website recommends 3 types of Tenancy Agreement, that being the introductory tenancy, the Secure Tenancy and the Fixed Term Tenancy, currently ADC does not operate the fixed term tenancy. Can we start immediately for all new tenancies a fix term tenancy, were suitable checks are put in place enabling ADC to formulate a decision as whether to offer another fix term or move to the introductory tenancy or even end the tenancy at that point without the cost of eviction orders?”

 

Response

 

“All issues which are reported to the Council (both the Community Safety Team and Housing Management and Tenancy Services Team) are recorded, however minor.

 

The Council’s Elected Members agreed some years ago not to introduce Fixed Term Tenancies.  As far as I am aware the Council has no plans to introduce fixed term tenancies. The Government are considering whether to introduce these as mandatory tenancies for all Council’s but at present this has been placed on hold.

 

The term ‘fixed term tenancies’ refers to a flexible tenancy – a new form of tenancy introduced by the Localism Act 2011 which can be used by local authorities. A flexible

tenancy is a time-limited form of secure tenancy e.g. 5/10 years and carries many of the same rights a secure tenancy. Council’s are still required to carry out the same legal action as secure tenancies, when dealing with breaches.

 

The use of fixed term tenancies is mainly used to:

 

·         Make the best use of housing stock - e.g. manage under occupation

·         Encourage tenant to explore other options e.g. home ownership - if a tenant’s annual income is over a certain threshold (and it considered they can afford home ownership), where the tenant could rent in the private sector and free up the property for another family in need,

·         Support tenants in their wider aspirations – e.g. support tenants to achieve wider objectives related to training and employment -  a support plan will need to be developed and tenants may have to find employment to have the tenancy renewed after the fixed term period, though if the income level would allow home ownership, it would not be renewed.

·         Support tenancy sustainment – Intensive support is provided throughout the fixed term tenancy and if the tenant can manage their tenancy, they will be granted a further fixed term tenancies.

·         Tackle Housing Management issues - Using fixed term tenancies in this way was not among the original aims set out by government when they were introduced and, on its own, it is unlikely to be a justification for adopting them. Organisations have adequate systems in place to deal with breaches of tenancy as they happen, and prior to the end of the tenancy term. Breaches of the tenancy should be addressed during the tenancy wherever possible e.g. do not wait for a review of the fixed term tenancy to address these.”

 

Question 3

 

“As already noted by the resident MANY currently available option are Not being used we are cover by existing legislation, and therefore ALL options cannot be covered by just 3 questions. Currently ADC does not exercise its legal right to “Absolute power of possession” covered in Sections 94 to 100 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. This would apply if the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household, or a person visiting the property has met one of the following conditions:

 

·         convicted of a serious offence (specified in Schedule 2A to the Housing Act 1985); (which I have a copy should the committee like to hear some of the offences this covers

·         found by a court to have breached a civil injunction;

·         convicted for breaching a criminal behaviour order (CBO);

·         convicted for breaching a noise abatement notice; or

·         the tenant’s property has been closed for more than 48 hours under a closure order for anti-social behaviour.

 

While this would only deal with the extreme perpetual ASB offender, this a required tool specifically for that purpose to give speedy at low cost results to alleviate the suffering of surrounding residents and the petitioners’ wish to know how quickly can this law which currently exists can be put to use by ADC officers?”

 

Response

 

“The Council do use the ‘absolute grounds for possession  

 

For example, a recent case in Sutton -  the tenant was creating drug related issues as well as all forms of ASB including noise nuisance. The tenant was allowing lots of unruly visitors to the property at all hours of the day and night causing disruption to the wider community. A civil injunction was granted with various clauses to which the resident breached. The breaches were put before the court and Ashfield District Council were awarded possession for absolute grounds for possession. This also went through the appeal process but still secured possession of the property alongside an injunction.

 

Vulnerability and Safeguarding

 

It is important to recognise some tenants that maybe perceived as causing issues and concerns but maybe vulnerable with complex needs e.g. alcohol/drugs/mental health etc. which we need to deal with and ensure appropriate support is provided etc.”

 

The Chairman thanked Councillor Mason for attending to present the petition and the Service Manager, Housing Management and Tenancy Services for attending to respond to the petition.

 

RESOLVED that

a)    the petition be noted;

 

b)    the issue of antisocial behaviour of tenants in Council properties and how this is dealt with by the Council’s Tenancy/Lettings Policies, including the use of sanctions, be recommended for inclusion on the Scrutiny Work plan.