Recently I asked Hammersmith and Fulham council:
“How many incidents of anti social behaviour were reported in 2014/15 where council tenants were the alleged perpetrators? Please advise both by number of incidents and by number of households accused of being responsible for at least one incident. How many evictions for anti social behaviour took place from 2014/15?”
The response from Mike England,
“I can confirm that the number of incidents of anti social behaviour that were reported in 2014/15, is as follows:
For cases received between 01 April 2014 to 31 March 2015, the number of individual perpetrators recorded as being council tenants was 361.
The number of evictions for ASB in 2014, between 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2014, was 10. For 2015, between 1 January 2015 to 29 June 2015, there has been one eviction for ASB.”
Of course some of the allegations are likely to be false. Others might be impossible to prove – but if this was a priority there are security firms that can gather evidence on persistent offenders. Court delays remains a problem though some action is being taken to help secure evictions. But an eviction rate of 1% or 2% seems pretty low to me.
The tenancy agreement says:
“In clauses a) and b) below, the tenant is responsible for the behaviour of anyone, including children, family, relatives and friends, who live or lodge at or visit the premises. The tenant shall
ensure that they do not act in breach of any of these clauses; nor must the tenant allow or permit them to act in such a way. This applies in the premises and anywhere in the local area.
Any breach of any of these clauses by others will be treated as a breach by the tenant. The tenant shall indemnify the council against all claims in respect of damage or nuisance caused by those others, including bearing the cost of making good or paying for any damage or defacement caused by those others.
The tenant or anyone who lives or lodges at or visits the premises shall not do any of the following:
•threaten or use violence towards anyone in the local area, including council employees and contractors
•do anything that causes or is likely to cause nuisance or annoyance to anyone in the local area
•do anything that interferes with the peace, comfort or convenience of anyone who lives in the local area
•play recorded or live music at loud volumes in the property or in any garden or communal area
•cause damage to or deface property in the local area belonging to others or the council
•use the premises for any immoral criminal or illegal purposes, or be convicted of an arrestable offence in the local area.
i) The tenant or anyone who lives or lodges at or visits the premises shall not harass anyone in the local area on the basis of their actual or perceived colour, race, nationality, ethnic origin, sex, sexuality, mental or physical disability, religious beliefs or on any other grounds whatsoever.
ii) Examples of harassment include but are not limited to verbal or written abuse or threats, denigrating comments verbally or in writing, physical violence or assault, deliberate damage to property.
c) Domestic violence*
The tenant shall not cause use or threaten to use violence (including psychological abuse) against anyone else living in the premises. If the tenant does cause use or threatens to use such violence and as a result anyone leaves the premises, the council may take steps to evict the tenant.”
But is the tenancy agreement enforced? All too often it is not.
Remember that there are many who would welcome the chance of a council tenancy. There are 69 families placed in bed and breakfast accommodation in Hammersmith and Fulham at considerable cost to the Council Taxpayer. Altogether there are 1,197 households in temporary accommodation.
At present the council’s policy is to regard “eviction as a last resort” rather than adopting a “zero tolerance policy”. Pride is taken that in the tiny number of cases taken to court the success rate is high – but that is due to the risk averse approach of waiting until a mass of evidence before taking tough action.
Labour may regard their soft approach towards yobs as “caring”. I do not. It is not caring for the vast majority of decent residents who have to put up with this misery. Nor is it caring for those in overcrowded, poor quality temporary accommodation who would be all to willing to honour their tenancy agreement if they were given the chance of a council tenancy.
Thanks Harry. I haven’t seen a social housing tenancy agreement before and I am quite shocked at the distance between the contractual obligations set out in it and the reality ‘on the ground’. Fortunately I don’t have too much experience of ASB, having only been assaulted once by a council tenant since moving here, but I do have daily experience of rubbish bags repeatedly put out on the wrong days or speared on railings, and front gardens left weed-strewn or full of rubbish for months. Our streets are also bighted by thousands of satellite dishes put up without permission, with some of the worst being in conservation areas such as Coningham and Lime Grove, and Wormholt and Old Oak.
There was a recent case of a mixed development in Camden where the council has had to buy out a number of market purchasers after they complained about social housing tenants hanging laundry over balconies and dumping rubbish. They had taken comfort from specific clauses in the tenancy agreements prohibiting these behaviours, but Camden Council admitted they were in practice ‘unenforceable’ i.e. they weren’t prepared to enforce, and so they used taxpayers money to buy themselves out of the problem. It doesn’t have to be like this, but it does need a change of mentality in the Town Hall. Not ‘tougher’ but simply more just.
I, too, had not seen a council tenancy agreement before and wonder how much drug dealing needs to go on before a council tenant is evicted? Surely drug dealing is illegal and also causes irreparable harm, notwithstanding the annoyance and degradation than ensues. If police raid a ‘drug den’, why are the tenants not immediately evicted?
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