Under the Housing Act 1985, a council may seek possession of a property let under a secure tenancy if a person residing with the tenant has committed nuisance or annoyance to persons residing in the locality, or committed a serious (‘indictable’) offence in the locality. Disturbances during the August riots have led to the arrest of over 2000 offenders and the charging of well over 1000 people. This constitutes a large number of cases where affected councils could potentially pursue evictions under this act.
The first of such proceedings began this month when it was reported on 12th August that an un-named Wandsworth Council Tenant received a formal notice confirming that the council was seeking possession in response to his son’s crimes during the rioting. The leader of the area’s council, Councillor Ravi Govindia, commented:
“Most residents on our housing estates are decent law-abiding citizens who will have been sickened at the scenes they witnessed on their TV screens this week. Many will have seen their places of work trashed at the hands of these rioters.
“As much as anything else we owe it to them to send out a strong signal that this kind of violence will not be tolerated.”
More recently, Southwark Council in South London has reputedly sent letters to 35 homes where either the tenant, or a member of the household, has been charged with criminal conduct during the riots. The letter informs the residents that anyone found guilty of criminal acts in relation to the civil unrest risk eviction through the Housing Act and Breach of Tenancy.
Ian Wingfield, Southwark’s member for housing, said: “We want to send a clear message to these individuals that if they are convicted there are serious consequences to their actions which for some could result in their eventual eviction.”
Southwark Council added that eviction would be decided on a case-by-case basis and that council officers had already begun conducting face-to-face visits with identified households to ensure any action is ‘proportionate’.
Other powers are also being considered by councils affected by the riots, including ASBOs where young offenders are concerned. In addition, it is reported that some councils are considering using ‘demoted tenancy’ powers which stops a tenancy being secure for 12 months, during which time if the tenant fails to comply with the terms of the new tenancy, the council can apply for eviction.
The Housing Act of 1985 is clear in its inference that a Council can evict any tenant who seriously breaches the law and impacts his or her locality. With well over 1000 rioters charged so far, and counting, it is likely that the case of the Wandsworth tenant’s possession order will not be the last of its kind in the coming months.