Anti-social behaviour policy – Guidance for landlords
All social housing landlords have a duty to publish policies and procedures to help them deal with reports of anti-social behaviour. This is a guide for landlords on what the Housing Ombudsman Service would expect to see included in an anti-social behaviour policy.
Aims and objectives of the policy
The aim of the policy should be to prevent and minimise instances of anti-social behaviour and to resolve them as early as possible through timely and appropriate intervention. The document should reflect a victim centred approach, allowing for the provision of appropriate support (which should include external agencies) especially in the most serious of cases. The importance of good, effective communication and the provision of regular updates to victims should be emphasised, which could involve providing a clear (single and named) point of contact.
The policy should also stress the need to treat people fairly and equally, ensuring that any action taken is proportionate and reasonable in the circumstances. In addition, it should explain who the policy applies to and clarify how anti-social behaviour from non-landlord residents will be dealt with and responded to.
What is anti-social behaviour?
The policy should define anti-social behaviour and provide examples of the types of behaviour concerned. This could include:
- serious acts of violence
- disturbance caused by noisy pets
- noise nuisance (e.g. loud music, excessive shouting)
- garden rubbish
- cooking smells
- inconsiderate parking
- running illegal businesses
The policy should also be clear about the difference between an anti-social behaviour ‘complaint’ and a formal complaint to be addressed through the internal complaints procedure. It should provide guidance on what is not classed as anti-social behaviour eg low-level neighbour disputes and day to day living noise which is not excessive or unreasonable.
It is important to state that individuals have a right to enjoy their homes and are entitled to go about their daily lives without having concerns that complaints will be made against them.
How to report and respond to anti-social behaviour?
The policy should clearly set out the avenues available to people in the reporting of instances of anti-social behaviour eg online, by telephone, by email etc. It should also categorise anti-social behaviour into levels of seriousness in terms of impact, frequency and level of risk. It should set clear time frames for responding to reports of anti-social behaviour, dependent upon the severity of what is being reported. The policy should set out clear response times and service standards.
It should specify the various actions that are available to a landlord for investigating and tackling anti-social behaviour, including the gathering of evidence. This could include:
- visiting the victim, providing support, signposting to agencies ie victim support
- interviewing alleged perpetrators
- installing noise monitoring equipment
- offering mediation
- issuing good neighbour agreements
- issuing diary sheets
- use of noise apps
- action plans
- management transfers
- warning letters
- enforcing the terms of a tenancy agreement or lease
- speaking to, and obtaining reports from witnesses
- anonymous door knocking exercises
- adopting a multi-agency approach through involving such organisations as the Police, Environmental Health, Social Services, Local Authorities, Youth Offending Team, Victim Support etc where appropriate
The policy should also specify the actions a landlord can take in more serious cases which could include:
- involving other agencies such as the Police or Environmental Health
- applying to court for an eviction of the perpetrator, if they are a tenant or leaseholder
- applying to court for an injunction
In what circumstances will cases be closed?
The policy should set guidelines for circumstances when an anti-social behaviour case will be closed eg following no further reports of anti-social behaviour within a given period, when the issue is resolved or when no further action can be taken. This should be accompanied by a caveat that cases will be re-opened should any new instances of anti-social behaviour be reported or if new relevant evidence is provided beyond that time frame.
What else should be included?
There may be sensitive personal information on file relating to victims and perpetrators of anti-social behaviour which is not to be shared with another party. This should not detract from the fact that regular communication should be maintained with a victim, even in instances where, for confidentiality reasons, the information to be shared is limited.
It is important individuals know how information about themselves will be treated. The document should refer to how it will comply with collection, storage, access to, provision and disclosure of data in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018.
Equality and diversity
It is important a landlord states its approach to equality and diversity, ie fairness, accessibility and transparency, the landlord values diversity and is committed to promoting equality of opportunity to ensure all residents are treated fairly. Reference to this and other related policies such as those situations where reasonable adjustments will be made.
It should also include reference to the community trigger while noting that although the onus is on the victim to activate the community trigger, the onus is on a landlord to inform the victim of its existence.
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act 2014 provides for the community trigger. The community trigger is a mechanism for victims of persistent anti-social behaviour to request that relevant bodies undertake a case review. A case review would entail the relevant bodies sharing information in relation to the case, discussing what action has previously been taken, and collectively deciding whether any further action could be taken. Relevant bodies are set out in the Act and include local authorities, the police, health providers and providers of social housing.
It should also demonstrate regard for people with vulnerabilities and the fact that a landlord has an obligation towards alleged perpetrators who are vulnerable just as it does to the victims of anti-social behaviour. It would not be appropriate to strictly follow normal policy in cases where the perpetrator is vulnerable, in particular with regard to seeking an eviction. It may be appropriate instead to liaise with the perpetrator’s support network to try and find more suitable accommodation with a higher provision of care.
The policy should reference the requirement to share information with a third party under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. It is also important that the need to process data and respect confidentiality, in line with the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is recognised.
The policy should reflect the need to refer matters of a criminal nature to the police. It should also indicate that, where responsibility for investigating an incident lies with another agency, such as the police, relevant support for that agency needs to be provided. The policy should also stipulate the importance of providing regular, up to date training for staff, which should be extended as far as possible, on what is a complex subject area.
It is considered good practice to have a separate policy relating to hate crime. This can be a separate document or part of the anti-social behaviour policy. This should reflect the fact that hate crime has a separate definition to anti-social behaviour and comes with a heavier sentence, if proven. It should also be recognised that it is for the individual to decide whether they are subject to a hate incident and not the ‘offender’ concerned.