A Guide To Ground 14: Possession and Anti-social Behaviour

Image: Ricardo Gomez Angel/ripato/Unsplash
Image: Ricardo Gomez Angel/ripato/Unsplash

Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1988 provides the grounds in which the Court must or may order possession of an assured shorthold tenancy.

The grounds can be categorised into mandatory and discretionary grounds – the Court must order outright possession in cases involving mandatory grounds, whereas with discretionary grounds, the Court must conclude it is reasonable to award possession.

Ground 14 – Anti-Social Behaviour (“ASB”)

This is known as the “anti-social behaviour” ground which is to be used when the tenant and/or someone residing in the property is guilty of conduct which is a nuisance and/or annoyance to other residents – this is a discretionary ground.

This applies when the tenant, or anyone living in or visiting the property has been:

  • Guilty of behaviour causing or likely to cause nuisance or annoyance to anyone living in, visiting or carrying out a lawful act in the locality;
  • Guilty of behaviour causing or likely to cause nuisance or annoyance to the landlord or someone employed in connection with the landlord’s housing management functions;
  • Has been convicted for using the premises, or allowing them to be used, for illegal or immoral purposes;
  • Has been convicted of an indictable offence committed in the locality.

ASB was defined by s.1(1)(a) Crime and Disorder Act 1998 as being “Acts that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons.”

 

There are 2 fundamental aspects to consider when looking to rely on the ASB ground.

  1. Evidence

There must be sufficient evidence to prove that the ASB has taken place. It is advisable to keep a clear record of all incidents.

This can include but is not limited to:

  • Complaints/communications from other residents in the accommodation and/or the surrounding area which displays the effect the ASB is having on them.
  • Documented records of all breaches of the tenancy.
  • Once any breaches are identified, follow ups with written requests to stop the behaviour.
  • If issues are reported to the police, obtain a police reference number.

When the matter proceeds to a hearing, witness statements being taken from any resident staff, security team, other tenants and any other people involved, who can elaborate on the behaviour being complained about, are crucial.

  1. Reasonableness

If the Court is satisfied by the evidence, they will then consider all the circumstances and look to whether it can be deemed “reasonable” for a possession order to be made. The interests of the parties concerned, and the public’s interests will be considered. Factors include:

  • the reason for and the seriousness of the breach;
  • whether the tenant has had an opportunity to remedy the breach;
  • whether the breach had been remedied and the effect of the tenant’s conduct on others;
  • the consequence of eviction for the tenant and their family;
  • whether any further breaches have occurred in the run up to the hearing.

S.9A Housing Act 1988 provides the factors in which the Court must consider when looking at reasonableness:

  • The effect that the nuisance or annoyance has had on persons other than the person against whom the order is sought;
  • Any continuing effect the nuisance or annoyance is likely to have on such persons;
  • The effect that the nuisance or annoyance would be likely to have on such persons if the conduct is repeated.

 

Types of Possession Orders

Outright Possession Order:

  • This requires the Tenant to leave the property by a date specified by the Court. This will typically be 14 – 28 days after the Court hearing.
  • In matters where the Tenant are at risk of suffering exceptional hardship, the Court may provide a longer time for the Tenant to vacate.

Suspended Possession Order:

  • This specifies a date for possession but also sets out conditions which must be met by the Tenant.
  • So long as the conditions are met, you will not be able to enforce the order.
  • If/when the conditions are breached, you can then request that a Warrant of Possession be granted, and a County Court Bailiff deal with the eviction.

Possession Order – Adjourned on Terms:

  • This is where the Court will adjourn the claim on terms.
  • No possession order has been made, but the tenant is given the opportunity to demonstrate they can abide by certain terms.
  • If the Tenant fails to keep to the terms of adjournment, the Landlord can then apply to reinstate the possession claim.

 

Summary

  • As Ground 14/ASB is a discretionary ground for possession, the Court is not required to order possession and will need convincing as to why they should award it.
  • Record keeping/evidence is instrumental with these cases – the more evidence there is, the easier it will be to argue your case.
  • Even if you have sufficient evidence, reasonableness will always be examined by the Court – ensure the criteria mentioned above is met before considering issuing a claim.

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