Anti-Social Behaviour: Play by the Rules or You Could Lose Your Home

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01 February, 2024

Craig MacKenzie

In new proposals, the government intends to strengthen controls over social housing for some persons convicted of criminal offences.

Housing Minister Lee Rowley said:

"Today, we are proposing further steps to make the allocation of social housing fairer for people. If you abuse the system, making peoples' lives a misery or actively work against our British values, you are making a choice - such choices will have consequences, and our proposals seek to stop such people from getting a social home.

The message is clear: play by the rules, pay in, and we will support you. If you choose not to, this country is not going to be a soft touch.

The public wants to know decent and hardworking people who have contributed to this country will be prioritised for new social tenancies. People already living in social homes want to know that anyone moving near them will be respectful of their neighbours, with their communities protected from those who persistently break the law.

That is why it is right that the finite resource of social housing is allocated fairly and local law-abiding citizens in need have more access to a home in their own communities".

Many different offences might be categorised as "anti-social behaviour", and these are routinely prosecuted in the criminal courts. In many cases, the individual instances of criminality are towards the lower end of the scale. They are often met with punishment, such as a fine or low-level community order.

If such behaviour continues, protective orders, such as Criminal Behaviour Orders, might be imposed, and in some cases injunctions by a civil court.

Local housing authorities can introduce additional qualification criteria for social housing applicants. Some choose to disqualify applicants based on their criminal convictions or evidence of them committing anti-social behaviour, but there is no standard approach.

The government believes that social housing should be allocated to those who have not undermined the safety of their community by engaging in anti-social behaviour.

The government intends to mandate a new qualification test that would disqualify social housing applicants with unspent anti-social behaviour convictions or civil sanctions in the area where the anti-social behaviour was committed. This would require local housing authorities to check whether there is evidence of an applicant having been subject to specified anti-social behaviour sanctions.

The proposed sanctions for anti-social behaviour include both criminal and civil offences, as well as eviction, and are as follows:

  • breaching a criminal behaviour order under section 30 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 or section 339 of the Sentencing Code (criminal conviction);
  • breaching a noise abatement notice or court abatement order (criminal conviction);
  • breaching a civil injunction under section 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (civil order);
  • previously having been a tenant of a dwelling-house that was subject to a closure order lasting over 48 hours (civil order);
  • previously having been a tenant who was evicted for anti-social behaviour under an absolute ground for possession (section 84A of the Housing Act 1985/see also ground 7A in Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988) or a discretionary ground for possession (Housing Act 1985: nuisance, ground 2; riot, ground 2ZA; domestic violence, ground 2A; see also the Housing Act 1988: nuisance, ground 14; riot, ground 14ZA; domestic violence, ground 14A) (civil order).

The government intends that where an applicant has received a relevant anti-social behaviour sanction, they are disqualified from social housing allocation from the local housing authority or authorities in England where the behaviour occurs. This disqualification would be for a set period after the anti-social behaviour conviction or sanction, or until the date on which their conviction (if they have one) is spent, whichever is sooner.

This ensures the approach to spent convictions aligns with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

The government is considering a disqualification period between 1 and 5 years and proposes it should be longer for people who receive a criminal sanction than a civil sanction.

In addition, the government wishes to explore how those with an unspent conviction for a terrorist offence, such as those under the Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2006, including for membership of a proscribed terrorist organisation, could be disqualified from social housing eligibility. An unspent conviction will remain on an offender's basic criminal record, and the most serious terrorist offences will never become spent.

When considering the consequences of a guilty plea, it is essential to reflect on the immediate punishment from a criminal court and what other consequences might follow. Being unable to secure accommodation in your local area may far outweigh any immediate sentence imposed by the Court.

All of our specialist lawyers will be able to offer comprehensive advice that enables you to make an informed decision at all stages of your case.

For more information contact Craig MacKenzie in our Crime department via email or phone on 01772 220 022. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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