09 March, 2010
The 5th March 2010 issue of Inside Housing reports how Sentinel Housing Association are shunning enforcement proceedings as a way of tackling Anti-Social Behaviour and are instead opting for training programmes for their tenants. Siobhan O'Donnell from the Housing Litigation team at Forbes Solicitors considers the effect of the programme on litigation in relation to Anti-Social Behaviour.
The Lifestyle Education and Assistance Programme (LEAP) has been developed by Stonham, a care and support division of Home Group housing association. The course allows potentially problematic tenants to have another chance at proving they are able to stick to the terms of their Tenancy Agreements without more drastic action being taken against them.
The one day course is comparable, in theory, to the Speed Awareness Course that is 'offered' to drivers with who have committed speeding offences, in that it acts as a more attractive alternative to unpleasant consequences. As with the Speed Awareness Course the aim of LEAP is rehabilitation. Ultimately the course tries to assist tenants who need lifestyle support in order to prevent matters escalating to such a point where court action is taken, resulting in costs that it may have been possible to avoid.
The approach further supports the Court's view that alternative ways to handle Anti-Social Behaviour should be sought rather than opting for enforcement in the first instance. The course has expanded to offer support to tenants who simply seek guidance on issues such as money management or household skills.
Contents of the Course
In addition to the above, attendees are made aware of other services that are available to further develop the skills that they have learnt. Following the course tenants discuss the session with their Housing Officer and draw up a document outlining how they intend to go forward. This agreement acts as a contract to the extent that it will include terms and dates for review.
In relation to Anti-Social Behaviour the results speak for themselves. 20 of the 24 referrals that were made in the first year resulted in reduced problems or the complete resolution of issues with the tenant. With regard to Rent Arrears the results have been less conclusive but still show an improvement in the tenants' compliance.
The development of LEAP reinforces the Court's move towards avoiding litigation and proving that you have taken all steps that are reasonable prior to enforcement action. Ultimately the course seeks to empower attendees with an improved knowledge of techniques and practical skills that will assist them in everyday situations. It is hoped that the overall benefits of this empowerment will be reaped by the landlord through a marked improvement in behaviour and a reduction in costs of litigation.