Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014

We have previously reported on a rather useful new ground that has been added to the grounds available for landlords to seek possession. Contained in the same Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 is a further ground which commenced in England on 20 October 2014 and in Wales on 21 October 2014.

More commonly landlords and agents will be familiar with grounds 8, 10 and 11 available for rent arrears. The new ground “7A” is introduced by section 97 and like ground 8 is mandatory if proven.

Ground 7A

In order for possession to be ordered by the court, any one or more of the following five conditions contained within 7A must be met.

Condition 1

The tenant, or a person residing in or visiting the dwelling-house, has been convicted of a serious offence, and the serious offence:
* was committed in, or in the locality of, the dwelling-house, or
* was committed elsewhere against a person with a right (of whatever description) to reside in, or occupy housing accommodation in the locality of, the dwelling-house, or
* was committed elsewhere against the landlord of the dwelling-house, or a person employed (whether or not by the landlord) in connection with the exercise of the landlord’s housing management functions, and directly or indirectly related to or affected those functions.

A serious offence is one found in Schedule 2A Housing Act 1985 and includes offences such as murder, manslaughter, various offences contained in the Offences against the Person Act 1861, various sexual offences, burglary, certain road traffic offences and certain drug related offences amongst others.

Condition 2

A court has found in relevant proceedings that the tenant, or a person residing in or visiting the dwelling-house, has breached a provision of an injunction under section 1 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and:

  • the breach occurred in, or in the locality of, the dwelling-house, or
  • the breach occurred elsewhere and the provision breached was a provision intended to prevent—
  • conduct that is capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to a person with a right (of whatever description) to reside in, or occupy housing accommodation in the locality of, the dwelling-house, or
  • conduct that is capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to the landlord of the dwelling-house, or a person employed (whether or not by the landlord) in connection with the exercise of the landlord’s housing management functions, and that is directly or indirectly related to or affects those functions.

“Relevant proceedings” means proceedings for contempt of court or proceedings under Schedule 2 to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (breach of injunction in respect of under-18s).

Condition 3

The tenant, or a person residing in or visiting the dwelling-house, has been convicted of an offence under section 30 consisting of a breach of a provision of a criminal behaviour order prohibiting a person from doing anything described in the order, and the offence involved:

  • a breach that occurred in, or in the locality of, the dwelling-house, or
  • a breach that occurred elsewhere of a provision intended to prevent—
  • behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to a person with a right (of whatever description) to reside in, or occupy housing accommodation in the locality of, the dwelling-house, or
  • behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to the landlord of the dwelling-house, or a person employed (whether or not by the landlord) in connection with the exercise of the landlord’s housing management functions, and that is directly or indirectly related to or affects those functions.

Condition 4

  • The dwelling-house is or has been subject to a closure order under section 80, and
  • access to the dwelling-house has been prohibited (under the closure order or under a closure notice issued under section 76 of that Act) for a continuous period of more than 48 hours.

Condition 5

The tenant, or a person residing in or visiting the dwelling-house, has been convicted of an offence under—

  • section 80(4) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (breach of abatement notice in relation to statutory nuisance), or
  • section 82(8) of that Act (breach of court order to abate statutory nuisance etc.), and
  • the nuisance concerned was noise emitted from the dwelling-house which was a statutory nuisance for the purposes of Part 3 of that Act by virtue of section 79(1)(g) of that Act (noise emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance).

It is a condition that the offence is committed by the tenant, or a person residing in or visiting the dwelling-house, on or after 20th October 2014 1.

Tenant must have been convicted or in breach

The ground covers a number of different scenarios all in relation to offences and crucially in all cases, the tenant (or person residing or visiting) must have actually been convicted or be found to be in breach of some order or injunction. Therefore, simply alleging anti-social behaviour in some way is not enough and there must have been some sort of conviction before the ground can be used.

Further, even when a tenant has actually been convicted or found to be in breach, the ground cannot be used until time-scales for appeal have passed or if there is an appeal, that must be allowed to be fully determined, abandoned or withdrawn.

Notice before proceedings

To use the ground, the usual section 8 notice is required to be served first and where the grounds are to be inserted in the form, ground “7A” can be inserted either in addition to other grounds contained in schedule 2 Housing Act 1988 or, on it’s own.

The time-scales for the notice differ depending on the conditions and the earliest date court proceedings can commence that needs to be inserted in the notice will be calculated as follows:

During fixed term

Where the tenancy is still within the fixed term, no earlier than one month after the date the notice was served.

During periodic

Where the tenancy is periodic, the earliest date on which a notice to quit could expire (if a notice to quit were allowed to be served which it is not). This means where the rent is payable monthly, the notice must be at least (a) one month in length and then (b) rounded up to the next day before the rent is due. For example, if the rent is payable on 15th of every month and a notice which contains ground 7A is served on 28th January, to calculate the date when court proceedings will not begin until after, first go one month from 28th January which is 28th February. Then, you must round up until the next day before the rent is due so in our example 14th March. In total therefore due to timings we needed to give around 6 weeks notice to use this ground. This amount of time would have to be increased if the rent were a different period – for example a quarterly rent would need at least 3 months notice.

It’s important to realise that by simply adding ground 7A increases the time required for the notice. Currently, serving notice under grounds 8, 10 and 11 only requires 14 days (plus a number of days to allow for delivery) but if you were to add ground 7A, then the length of notice would need increasing as described above. Therefore, if the tenant is already two months or more in arrears, it is best just to focus on the rent arrears and ignore ground 7A.

Notice must be served within specified time-scale

Any notice containing ground 7A (even if other grounds are also included) must be served within the following time-scales:

Conditions 1, 3 or 5

Within 12 months of the conviction or if an appeal, 12 months from which the appeal is finally determined or abandoned.

Condition 2

Within 12 months from the day the court made the finding of the breach or if an appeal, within 12 months of it being finally determined, abandoned or withdrawn.

Condition 4

Within 3 months of the closure order or, if there is an appeal, within 3 months of the appeal being finally determined, abandoned or withdrawn.

Conclusion

In reality, it’s unlikely that many landlords will want to use ground 7A due to it’s serious constraints and restrictive time-scales. It might be useful if a long term tenancy has been granted and the conviction has taken place early into the tenancy but once the tenancy has gone periodic (or within two months of being) the section 21 two months notice is likely to be far quicker and easier.

We have a constant flow of enquiries about anti-social tenants and eviction is never easy or quick. We don’t see anything here that particularly changes this in the real world.

The only potentially useful part might be condition 4 – closure order. Under previous legislation, if a closure order was made, the landlord still had the usual notice requirements and possession proceedings to go through in order to get possession and sometimes if during a fixed term, the easiest way was to wait for two months arrears.

However, now, if a closure order has been made under the new rules and it was made for at least 48 hours, there is a mandatory ground for possession. If the tenancy is periodic, it’s possibly still just as quick to serve a section 21 notice where accelerated possession is available. But, if the fixed term is still early, this mandatory ground might be quicker. It all depends on timing so best to consult us before acting.

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