The Department is committed to tackling Anti-Social Behaviour at every level and, in this regard, ensuring that all social housing tenants are treated fairly and consistently.

All Registered Housing Associations must, therefore, have in place a policy and procedures for dealing with Anti-Social Behaviour and will be expected to adhere to these at all times.
Read the Model Statement of Policy and Procedures on Anti-Social Behaviour below.

Associations must also ensure that their policies and procedures are published and made available to tenants and customers.

Good Neighbourhood Agreement

The Department has a statutory duty under the Northern Ireland Act 1998, Section 75(2) to ‘promote good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group’.
The Housing Executive currently appends a ‘Good Neighbour’ agreement to their tenancy agreements. This document refers to the conduct that is expected from each tenant as well as incorporating community safety and shared neighbourhood principles. This is a stand alone document and is a voluntary charter that is additional to the legal tenancy agreement.
A number of Housing Associations have already introduced ‘Good Neighbour’ agreements in consultation with their tenants. However, the Department is keen to see a similar ‘Good Neighbour’ agreement introduced to supplement all Housing Association tenancy agreements.
The model agreement can be tailored to suit the needs of individual Associations and communities. In the case of new developments, tenants should be encouraged to sign up to the ‘Good Neighbour’ agreement when signing their tenancy agreement – this could be discussed at the community consultation meetings to gain agreement for either the model agreement or a bespoke agreement.
The Department appreciates that implementation of a ‘Good Neighbour’ agreement for existing tenancies will require consultation with individual tenants therefore we are content that a Good Neighbour agreement is introduced for new tenancies and re-lets as they arise.

Model Statement of Policy and Procedures on Anti-Social Behaviour

Foreword

It is the intention of this Statement of Policies and Procedures to demonstrate (name of) Housing Association’s commitment to deal effectively with reported incidences of Anti-Social Behaviour.  The Policy section provides an overview of the principles underlying the Association’s approach to Anti-Social Behaviour.  The statement on Procedures details how reports of Anti-Social Behaviour are processed by (name of) Housing Association and remedies which are used to tackle Anti-Social Behaviour.

Policy - Part One

Introduction

Anti-Social Behaviour causes fear and anxiety in the community and the Government is pledged to tackling the menace at every level.
In September 2004 the Department issued a directive under Article 10 of the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1981, requiring the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to publish:

  • a Statement of Policies and Procedures on Anti-Social Behaviour and
  • a Summary of Policies and Procedures on Anti-Social Behaviour

This directive has been superseded by Article 27A of the Housing (NI) Order 2003 as inserted by Section 10 of the Housing (Amendment) Act (NI) 2010.
To ensure consistency for all social housing tenants, the Department issued a formal policy and procedures model in 2006 – which is updated by this guidance - designed to help Housing Associations combat Anti-Social Behaviour and neighbourhood disorder.  This document follows that model and demonstrates (name of) Housing Association’s approach and commitment to tackling the issue.  
This document can be made available upon request in large print, braille audio or other languages if required.  Electronic copies of this document can be found on (name of Association’s) website.

The Legislation

Part II of the Housing (NI) Order 2003 was designed to extend powers to tackle Anti-Social Behaviour in local communities.  It provides for Introductory Tenancies and includes measures for developing the use of injunctions and extending the grounds for possession.  In addition, Part IV of the 2003 Order provides for persons who are unsuitable to be tenants because of their unacceptable behaviour to be treated as ineligible for housing accommodation or homelessness assistance.

The Anti-Social Behaviour (NI) Order 2004 enables the Housing Executive, District Councils and the PSNI to apply to the courts for Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs).  Housing Associations are not empowered to apply for ASBOs but can apply to the above relevant authorities to issue ASBOs on their behalf.

The Housing (Amendment) Act (NI) 2010 has also amended the grounds for possession set out in Schedule 3 to the Housing (NI) Order 1983 to provide that a conviction for any offence which involves the use of a dwelling house for illegal or immoral purposes will be grounds for possession.

The Housing (Amendment) Act (NI) 2011 provides for social landlords to withhold consent to an exchange of tenancies where an order or injunction relating to anti social behaviour is in place; where an application for an order or injunction is pending before any court and where the tenant or proposed assignee, or person residing with either of them, has been convicted in connection with an offence which involves the use of the tenant or assignee’s home for immoral or illegal purposes, or has been convicted of an indictable offence.

What is Anti-Social Behaviour

For the purposes of this Guide, Anti-Social behaviour means engaging in or threatening to engage in behaviour which:

  • causes or is likely to cause nuisance or annoyance to a person residing in, visiting or otherwise engaging in a lawful activity in or in the locality of any housing accommodation owned or managed by (name of) Housing Association or
  • involves the use of housing accommodation owned or managed by (name of) Housing Association for an unlawful or immoral purpose

In addition an individual may be deemed to have acted in an anti-social manner if he/she has:

  • been convicted of an offence which involves using accommodation owned or managed by (name of) Housing Association or allowing it to be used for illegal or immoral purposes
  • been convicted of an indictable offence committed in, or in the locality of the dwelling house

Anti-Social Behaviour might include amongst other things:

  • violence or the threat of violence
  • hate behaviour that targets members of identified groups because of their perceived differences (e.g. race, religion, political affiliation, disabilities or sexual orientation)
  • noise nuisance (e.g. rowdy parties, loud music/TVs, dog barking)
  • arguing and door slamming
  • environmental quality issues (e.g. litter, dog fouling, graffiti, fly tipping, nuisance vehicles)
  • offensive drunkenness
  • using housing accommodation for selling drugs or drug abuse or other unlawful purposes
  • intimidation and Harassment

The above list includes typical types of behaviour which trigger consideration for action by (name of) Housing Association.  The list is not exhaustive and the policy statement is not an undertaking to act in every instance.  Judgment will be exercised by Housing Association officers when considering and responding to a particular report of Anti-Social Behaviour.  

 Strategic Context

Tackling Anti-Social Behaviour must be seen within the context of existing statutory obligations which include but are not limited to:

  • Anti-Social Behaviour (NI) Order 2004
  • The Housing (Northern Ireland ) Order 1988 (Part II) Article 7A and The Housing (Northern Ireland ) Order 1981 Article 22A
  • The Children (Northern Ireland ) Order 1995 (in particular Article 46)
  • The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (in particular 22(3)(c))
  • The Race Relations (Northern Ireland ) Order 1997 (in particular articles 21 and 22)
  • The Human Rights Act 1998
  • The Northern Ireland Act 1998 (section 75 Equality of Opportunity).

The Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 affords Housing Associations with specific powers to tackle Anti-Social Behaviour in local communities by the:

  • introduction of introductory tenancies

This Order also enhanced and extended the existing powers afforded to Housing Associations in relation to:

  • possession and injunctions proceedings.

Injunctions and Anti-Social Behaviour Orders proceedings are not restricted to Housing Association tenants but can be initiated in respect of any individual involved in Anti-Social Behaviour in the locality/vicinity of (name of) Housing Association owned/managed stock.

This Statement of Policy and Procedures is compatible with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s Homelessness Strategy and other housing strategies.

Our Approach to Anti-Social Behaviour

(Name of) Housing Association acknowledges that every individual is entitled to live in peace within their neighbourhood and that to provide a quality service, Anti-Social Behaviour must be addressed effectively.  We are committed to tackling Anti-Social Behaviour wherever it occurs in whatever form it presents itself.  Such behaviour can range from excessive noise and illegal dumping right through to aggressive or violent behaviour.

We will:

  • quickly and formally acknowledge all reports of Anti-Social Behaviour
  • seek to investigate all reported instances of Anti-Social Behaviour at office level in a timely manner
  • provide advice and support
  • identify and interview all interested parties
  • establish inter-agency working where appropriate
  • use legal action when all efforts at conciliation have failed. Action can include possession, injunction and applying to relevant authorities for an Anti-Social Behaviour Order. It should be noted that conciliation is not always appropriate and sometimes it is necessary to resort to legal action immediately.
  • endeavour to take action on behalf of Association tenants who are the victims of Anti-Social Behaviour
  • seek to respond to instances of Anti-Social Behaviour on (name of) Housing Association land whether the complainant is a tenant, private tenant or owner occupier and
  • in the context of re-housing, take full account of any Anti-Social Behaviour carried out by the housing applicant or their household, to the extent that this is legally permissible.

Support for Complainants And Witnesses

Complaints of Anti-Social Behaviour can be forwarded to (any of) the following address(es).  Complaints may be made in person, in writing, via phone, or by e-mail to:

(Input Housing Association’s office address(es), including telephone number(s) and e-mail details).

Any reports of Anti-Social Behaviour will be quickly and formally acknowledged and all reported instances will be investigated.  If appropriate the complainant and the Association will agree a plan of action.  If the problem persists, it may be appropriate to consider taking legal action and in such circumstances the complainant will be asked to complete an incident diary which will be provided.

Witnesses have a crucial role to play in tackling Anti-Social Behaviour and will require support throughout the process.

If legal action is deemed appropriate the complainant(s)/witness(es) will be advised of all developments in the case and will be kept fully informed of all stages in the legal process.  If appropriate, their agreement will be sought before proceeding.

(Name of) Housing Association will:

  • initiate and maintain regular contact with complainant(s)/witness(es)
  • explain how the case is developed and the legal options available
  • keep the complainant(s)/witness(es) informed of the progress of the case, providing a timetable of the various stages.  Advise them of any new developments, explain the procedures of the court and if appropriate seek their agreement to proceed with their evidence
  • advise them of other agencies – there are a number of other agencies which may be able to offer additional advice and assistance
  • make any necessary arrangements to ensure the complainant(s)/witness(es) attends the court hearing, considering assistance with transport provision if necessary
  • wherever possible, provide support during the court procedures and investigate the availability of a separate waiting room for the complainant(s)/witness(es) in the court and
  • after legal action, provide ongoing support if necessary and monitor the situation 

Expert Witnesses

(Name of) Association will give careful consideration to the safety of complainants/witness(es).  Where they are not willing to provide direct evidence to the court, (name of) Association will endeavour to use expert witnesses and hearsay evidence.  These expert witnesses may be officers from the statutory agencies, social workers, police officers etc.
 

Sectarian and Other Harassment Policies

Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act (1998) requires Housing Associations, in carrying out all its functions, powers and duties, to have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity:

  • between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status, and sexual orientation
  • between men and women generally
  • between persons with a disability and persons without and
  • between persons with dependants and persons without

In addition, and without prejudice to its obligations set out above, the Act requires Housing Associations in carrying out their functions, to have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between those persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group.

(Name of) Housing Association will treat any racial, sectarian harassment or harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation or disability as a form of nuisance or annoyance likely to cause alarm or distress.

Domestic Violence

The Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 extended the grounds for possession to include domestic violence.  (Name of) Housing Association is empowered to seek possession where a person has vacated the dwelling house as a result of violence or threats of violence by their partner (the violence or threat of violence could be directed at the partner who has left or at other family members living with that partner).

As in any case of Anti-Social Behaviour (name of) Housing Association recognises the need to ensure the safety of the individual experiencing the Anti-Social Behaviour.  The decision to return to the family home after an abusive partner has been removed is entirely a matter for the individual concerned.

Prevention of Anti-Social Behaviour

Preventative measures open to the Association include:

Refusal of House Sale

A secure tenant will be ineligible to buy if, due to Anti-Social Behaviour, (name of) Housing Association has taken legal action for possession of his/her dwelling.  There are four possible stages to that action:

  1. the Association is actively considering whether it would be appropriate to serve – at some time within the next three months – a relevant statutory notice seeking possession
  2. the Association has served a relevant statutory notice seeking possession at any time within the previous 3 months
  3. proceedings for possession of the dwelling pursuant to a relevant statutory notice are pending
  4. the Tenant is obliged to give up possession of the dwelling in pursuance of an Order of the Court which has been granted pursuant to a relevant statutory notice or will be so obliged at a date specified in the Order.

Introductory Tenancies

Introductory Tenancies, which were introduced in April 2004 are intended to address the specific problem of Anti-Social Behaviour and allow (name of) Housing Association to assess the suitability of an individual to hold a secure tenancy.  

Transfer List

If a notice of possession is sought against a tenant due to Anti-Social Behaviour they will generally not be eligible to access the transfer list.

Mediation

All cases of Anti-Social Behaviour will be treated seriously and thoroughly investigated. However, if appropriate, attempts will be made to resolve the problem via conciliation as opposed to confrontation and ultimately legal action.

Mediation permits individuals to discuss their grievances and resolve their own disagreements. It can offer a more positive alternative to legal action.

Once a case is reported, mediation should be considered in the first instance and the Association will contact the parties involved and arrange to meet with them.  Mediation can go ahead with all the parties to the dispute in the same room, or with the mediators meeting people separately.

Multi-agency Partnerships

The Department encourages Housing Associations to engage in interagency working to address Anti-Social Behaviour and recognises that the problems faced in some communities are complex.  Whilst no single solution can tackle these effectively, equally no single organisation can meet these challenges on its own.

(Name of) Housing Association is committed to active engagement with relevant authorities such as Probation, Health and Social Services, Youth Justice and Education Welfare to provide a comprehensive assessment of an individual’s problem behaviour and, where possible, to provide the individual with the opportunity to be referred to an appropriate organisation for support, diversion or another early intervention.  

Acceptable Behaviour Contracts

This is a written agreement between the Association and a person who has been involved in Anti-Social Behaviour.  A model Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC) is provided.

Warning Letters

Use of a warning letter to the individual committing the Anti-Social Behaviour will be considered at an early stage.

Floating Support/Tenancy Support Schemes

Under the Supporting People programme which was introduced in Northern Ireland on 1st April 2003, (name of) Housing Association provides a floating support service to its vulnerable tenants and housing applicants. This service aims to encourage and assist people to live independently and sustain their tenancy, thus preventing a cycle of eviction because of Anti-Social Behaviour.

Secured by Design

Secured by Design is a national policy initiative to encourage the adoption of crime prevention measures in the design, layout and construction stages of homes.  This initiative helps to reduce the opportunity for crime and the fear of crime, and to create a safer and more secure environment.

The Department requires all Association new build homes, as well as major rehabilitation and re-improvement schemes, seeking government funding to achieve the ‘Secured by Design’ award.

Whilst Secured by Design does not guarantee that a particular area will be crime-proof it  indicates that the site has been subject to a design process and improved levels of security which, in the experience of the PSNI and other agencies, have been shown to significantly reduce the risks and the fear of crime.

Withhold Consent to an Exchange of Tenancies

Housing Associations may withhold consent to an exchange of tenancies where the following orders or injunctions in relation to Anti-Social Behaviour are in force or an application for such an order or injunction is pending before any court:

  • a (statutory) injunction against anti-social behaviour
  • a (non-statutory) injunction against breach of tenancy agreement on grounds relating to anti-social behaviour
  • an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO)
  • an interim ASBO or
  • an order for possession on the grounds of causing nuisance, etc

Housing Associations may also withhold consent to an exchange of tenancies where the tenant or proposed assignee or a person residing with either of them has been convicted in connection with an offence which involves the use of the tenant or assignee’s home for immoral or illegal purposes, or has been convicted of an indictable crime.

Tenants’ Obligations

The tenant is responsible for the behaviour of every person (including children) living in or visiting the tenants home.  This includes responsibility for their behaviour in the home, on surrounding land, in communal areas (stairs, lifts, landing, entrance halls, paving shared gardens, parking areas) and in the locality of the dwelling house.

Whether the tenancy is secure or introductory, breaching any of the General Conditions of Tenancy or statutory obligations may result in the Association issuing possession, injunction proceedings or applying to the relevant authorities for an Anti-Social Behaviour Order.

Furthermore, anyone who has been involved in Anti-Social Behaviour may find they are ineligible for housing and homelessness assistance in the future.

Support for Perpetrators

When dealing with alleged perpetrators (name of) Housing Association’s response will depend on the nature of the offending behaviour.  In many cases of Anti-Social Behaviour there may be underlying causes such as:

  • drug addiction
  • alcohol addiction
  • mental health issues
  • learning difficulties
  • family or relationship breakdown.

Individuals whose Anti-Social Behaviour is a consequence of one or more of the issues listed above may sometimes require support in maintaining their tenancies and addressing their behaviour.  When dealing with vulnerable individuals (name of) Housing Association will consider the factors which may be contributing to neighbour nuisance before deciding on an appropriate course of action.  The association will liaise with the individuals and other service providers to identify the availability of appropriate support packages.

Juvenile Perpetrators

When dealing with young people (name of) Housing Association will attempt to ascertain the causes of the Anti-Social Behaviour and involve parents/guardians.  Consultations with appropriate agencies will be undertaken i.e. Probation, Youth Justice, Health & Social Services and Education Welfare.  In particular Social Services will be advised of the Association’s involvement with any young person participating in Anti-Social Behaviour given the former’s duty under Article 18 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995.

Multi Agency Working

Where possible, (name of) Housing Association will actively develop Multi-Agency protocols with the Probation Board for Northern Ireland and the Prison Service on reducing re-offending and homelessness among offenders by early identification of the underlying causes that contributes to their re-offending behaviour.  

Data Protection and Information Exchange

GDPR and DPA 2018

DPA 2018 regulates the processing and handling of personal data that has been lawfully obtained.

The Data Protection Principles

Personal data held about a tenant must be:

  1. fairly and lawfully processed
  2. processed for limited purposes and not in any way incompatible with those purposes
  3. adequate, relevant and not excessive
  4. accurate and kept up to date
  5. not kept for longer than is necessary
  6. processed in line with tenant’s rights
  7. secure

In general, there is a prohibition against the disclosure of personal data from one party to another unless the above principles have been complied with.  However, there are certain exemptions to the non-disclosure rules under DPA 2018 which allow (name of) Housing Association to process personal information without following all the principles. Personal data can be disclosed in the following circumstances:

  • to prevent or detect crime
  • to apprehend or prosecute offenders
  • where disclosure is required by law
  • in connection with legal proceedings.

The Housing (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 allows for any person to disclose certain information relating to crime or Anti-Social Behaviour to a Registered Housing Association where such information is required to enable the Housing Association to take a decision in relation to an exchange of tenancies, the right to buy, an allocation of housing accommodation (including a transfer of an existing tenant) or an application for an order for possession.

Confidentiality

Subject to any legal requirements, any information received by (name of) Housing Association will be treated with the utmost of confidence.  In any particular case of Anti-Social Behaviour, disclosure of information by the Association to any other party (subject to any legal requirements) will not occur without the permission of the person who provided the information unless required to do so by law.

As detailed in the Data Protection section above, information may be shared with other agencies for the purpose of crime prevention, prosecution of offenders and legal proceedings.

In ASBO applications, hearsay evidence and professional witnesses may be used to protect the identity of complainants.

Protection of Staff

In keeping with its overall objectives and in accordance with the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 and associated legislation, (name of) Housing Association recognises and accepts its responsibility as an employer for providing a safe and healthy workplace and as far as is reasonably practicable, a risk free working environment for all its employees.

Where employees are required to work outdoors or at locations away from their normal base, (name of) Housing Association will ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, all steps are taken to ensure their health and safety.  The Association will also conduct its activities in a way that minimises and, where possible, eliminates the risk to which others may be exposed.

(Name of) Housing Association will take all reasonably practicable steps within its power to meet these responsibilities.

All Association staff are provided with appropriate training and personal safety awareness.  They are also trained on how to deal with difficult situations.  Training needs are kept under review.

Staff Training

(Name of) Housing Association will ensure that all relevant staff receives adequate training in dealing with Anti-Social Behaviour.

Tenant Participation

The Department actively encourages tenant participation in discussing and developing local services and addressing housing issues generally.  By being more involved, tenants will be better informed, contribute to better decision making, improve services and standards locally and develop their own skills and opportunities.

To achieve this, the Department, together with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive funds Supporting Communities NI (SCNI) an independent voluntary organisation to work with community groups and housing providers to achieve meaningful community participation.

Review of Policy

(Name of) Housing Association will review the effectiveness of this policy at least every three years unless good management practice or changes to legislation dictate that earlier amendment is necessary.

Procedures - Part Two

Introduction

The Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1983, The Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 2003, The Housing (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2010 and The Housing (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 provide Housing Associations with legal powers to address Anti-Social Behaviour. These include the use of injunctions, introductory tenancies, eligibility for housing assistance, powers of repossession and withholding consent to exchange of tenancies. All complaints of Anti-Social Behaviour will be dealt with in accordance with these powers and the procedures set out in this document.

(Name of) Housing Association acknowledges that in many cases, incidences of nuisance behaviour can be successfully resolved by timely and informal intervention. In these situations and where unwanted behaviour is isolated and non-repetitive this formal procedure need not apply. The decision on which route to adopt will rest with the Local Area Manager. However, such incidences will be recorded and kept on file for future reference.

The formal procedure described in this section should, however, be applied for more serious reports of Anti-Social Behaviour and for sustained or repetitive incidences of nuisance behaviour which cause or have the potential to cause distress to others or damage to property.

Initiating a Complaint

A complaint of Anti-Social Behaviour can be made in writing, by e-mail or verbally (in person or by telephone) to (any of) the Housing Association’s office address(es) listed below:

(insert Association’s address(es) and e-mail details)

A complaint does not have to come from the individual experiencing the Anti-Social Behaviour.  A political representative, police, council officer, social worker or member of the Association’s staff may report the complaint initially.

Anonymous complaints will not necessarily be ignored. Many such complaints can be acted on, for instance, the physical condition of properties and gardens.   However, in the absence of direct evidence from a complainant it may prove difficult to fully investigate such cases.

Processing a Complaint Of Anti-Social Behaviour (Stages 1-7)

In order to facilitate the adoption of a consistent approach in dealing with all reported incidences of Anti-Social Behaviour, (name of) Housing Association utilises standard documentation including the following:

  • Case Report – a record of the information gathered by the Association, including a Progress Checklist
  • Action Plan – an agreement between the complainant and the Association on what action needs to be taken and who is responsible for collecting the evidence
  • Incident Diary – the complainant’s personal record of what they see and hear.

Stage 1 - Initial Complaint, Acknowledgement and Registration

Following a report or incident of Anti-Social Behaviour to which this procedure is to apply, the Association will:

  • acknowledge receipt of  the complaint - Initial complaint and acknowledgement
  • log the complaint on the Association’s ASB Register
  • appoint an appropriately experienced member of staff to act as Investigating Officer.

Stage 2 - Interviewing the Complainant

The Investigating Officer will arrange to meet with and interview the complainant.  At the interview, the Investigating Officer will seek to gather full details of the incident and the pertaining circumstances.  The information will be recorded on a Case Report form and will include details of the complainant and other occupants at the complainants address.  Other information to be considered will include:

  • whether the complainant has any special needs or vulnerabilities
  • the name and address of the alleged perpetrator (if known) and whether they are tenants of the Association
  • details of the alleged incident(s) including date(s), location, time periods involved
  • the existence of other witness i.e. neighbours, Police, Council Officers etc
  • the effect of the behaviour on the complainant’s quality of life and that of their family members
  • any action the complainant may have taken to resolve the problem i.e. contact with the alleged perpetrator
  • their willingness, in appropriate cases, to partake in a mediation process
  • their agreement for the Association to contact the alleged perpetrator.  At this stage the complainant will be advised that their name and details will not be disclosed.  However in many situations, the perpetrator may be able to identify the source of the complaint
  • completion of an Equal Opportunities Monitoring form.

Depending upon the circumstances of the case the complainant and the Investigating Officer will, if appropriate, agree an Action Plan as to the way forward.  The complainant may be advised of the need to report the incidences of Anti-Social Behaviour to the relevant statutory agency i.e. Police Service of Northern Ireland or District Council.

As part of the Action Plan the Association may contact the alleged perpetrator, liaise with appropriate agencies and seek to substantiate the reports of Anti-Social Behaviour.

Where the alleged perpetrator refutes the allegations, or where the available information is insufficient to progress the matter, the complainant may also be requested to complete an Incident Diary, so that future incidences of Anti-Social Behaviour can be easily recorded.  There is also a Witness Report sheet at the back of the Incident Diary so that any other witness(es) to the incident can record their experiences individually.

Ongoing contact with the complainant will be sustained and a review date set to discuss progress of the case.  Case reviews will be recorded on the Association’s Case Review and Action Plan follow-up proforma.

Stage 3 - Preliminary Evidence Gathering

Following the interview with the complainant and, if appropriate, agreement of an Action Plan the Investigating Officer will complete the following checks:

  • confirm whether the alleged perpetrator is a tenant of the Association, as this may determine the course of action to be taken
  • check for any House Sale application submitted in respect of the property occupied by the alleged perpetrator, if an Association tenant
  • check for Housing Selection Scheme application/Transfer application in respect of the alleged perpetrator and/or family member
  • check whether there have been any previous complaints of nuisance behaviour made by the complainant, the complainant’s family or the alleged perpetrator
  • seek to substantiate the reports of Anti-Social Behaviour by independently corroborating or refuting the allegations.  This may necessitate the Association interviewing other witnesses and seeking information from other agencies.

Many of these checks can be recorded on the appropriate section of the Case Report form.

Stage 4 - Interviewing/Contact with the Alleged Perpetrator

The Investigating Officer will attempt to contact the alleged perpetrator, advise of the nature of the complaint and arrange an interview.

At the interview the alleged perpetrator will be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations.  He/she will also be informed of the:

  • potential seriousness of the situation
  • investigation process and
  • possible legal consequences should the allegations be substantiated and the Anti-Social Behaviour continue

Comprehensive notes will be taken of the alleged perpetrator’s response and recorded on the appropriate section of the Case Report form.  The Investigating Officer will also seek to gather additional information, including:

  • personal details of the alleged perpetrator and other occupants at the same address
  • whether the alleged perpetrator has any special needs or vulnerabilities
  • their willingness, in appropriate cases, to take part in a mediation process
  • completion of an Equal Opportunities Monitoring form.

Should the alleged perpetrator make counter allegations, in respect of anti-social behaviour directed towards them, they will be investigated and a new case should be opened and managed as detailed in Stage 1.

Stage 5 - Choosing the Most Appropriate form of Action

Following the interview with the alleged perpetrator, or in the absence of any contact, the Association will consider the way forward.  Each case of Anti-Social Behaviour is unique and the way forward will be determined by the particular circumstances of the case.

The Association’s preferred option is to resolve the matter without recourse to any form of legal action such as possession, injunction or Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) proceedings.  However the Association will initiate legal action in situations where other forms of action have not provided the desired results and/or where the situation is such that action through the courts appears to be the only viable option.

Depending on the circumstances of the case and taking account of the evidence available, the Association may decide to apply one or more of the following actions:

Support
Provide support through the Association’s Support Service or other relevant agency to the perpetrator and/or complainant, initiating interagency working with relevant service providers where this is appropriate and evaluating the impact of any support package(s) put in place.

Mediation
Where it appears that the issue can be resolved by a face to face meeting between the parties and where both parties agree to participate, the Association will facilitate such a meeting.  The parties may also request to be referred to a mediation service.

Where formal mediation is the preferred option, the Association will arrange for the necessary professional services at no cost to the parties. Prior to any mediation process, the Association will seek assurances from both parties, that each will accept and abide by the resulting outcome.

Mediation services would typically be used for noise, verbal abuse, children’s behaviour, pets, boundary issues, car parking and many other sources of dispute.  A case may be referred for mediation if both parties are willing to participate.

Warning Letters
Issue letter(s) to the perpetrator(s) warning that the Anti-Social Behaviour should cease and informing of the consequences of failure to take heed.

Acceptable Behaviour Contract
An Acceptable Behaviour Contract is a written agreement between an individual who has been involved in Anti-Social Behaviour and, in this case (name of) Housing Association.

The contract is agreed and signed at a meeting with the individual and the lead agency/agencies. In circumstance where the person is 17 years of age or younger their parents/guardians will be asked to attend.  If the parent or guardian refuses to attend the meeting then the ABC will not proceed.

The contract was initially designed for 10-18 year olds. In the case of children under 10 the parent/guardian would sign a parental control agreement and would take full responsibility for their child’s behaviour.  ABCs can also however apply to adults.

The agreement is not legally binding but should the individual continue to act in an anti-social manner then the agreement may be used as evidence in subsequent legal action.

The contract should reflect the behaviour of the individual which is to be addressed and written in basic terms which the individual understands. The contract specifies a list of anti-social acts in which the person has been involved and which they agree not to continue.

The contract would normally last for six months although it can be renewed. This time period runs in conjunction with the evidence gathering period in respect of an ASBO. The time period can be flexible although it should be a fair and proportionate response to the issues identified.  The behaviour will continue to be monitored for the duration of the Acceptable Behaviour Contract.

Gather Additional Evidence
Where the evidence is insufficient to support action against an alleged perpetrator the Association may ask the complainant to commence and maintain an “Incident Diary” or seek additional information from third parties.

Monitor the Situation
Where the situation is unclear or where an incident is of a minor nature the Association may continue to monitor until facts become clearer and the need for further action is more clearly defined.

Initiate Legal Action
See Stage 6 below.

Close the Case
Where the situation has been resolved or where the evidence shows that the allegations are unsubstantiated or misplaced the Association can close the case.
All stages will be fully documented and the records held on file.

Stage 6  - Legal Action

In many cases of reported Anti-Social Behaviour or nuisance, an interview or a warning letter from the Association will often be enough to stop the unwanted behaviour.  However there may be situations where these initial warnings are ignored.  If all attempts at conciliation, support or other action short of legal proceedings fail, legal action may be necessary.

Legal action will normally only be initiated as a last resort where warnings and all other attempts to resolve the issues have been exhausted.  However, and not withstanding the Association’s preference to resolve the issues by support and diversion, there may be circumstances where court action will be deemed as the only viable option of dealing with serious cases of Anti-Social Behaviour.

The following options are open to the Association:

Anti-Social Behaviour Orders
Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) are civil orders made under the Anti-Social Behaviour (Northern Ireland) Order 2004 by the magistrate’s court acting in its civil capacity.  The court makes an order which prohibits the defendant from doing anything described in the order.  They are intended to protect people from further acts or conduct that would cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as the individual.  While Housing Associations are not presently empowered to apply to the courts directly for an ASBO they can apply to the relevant authorities (NIHE, District Councils or the Chief Constable of the PSNI) to do so on their behalf.

An ASBO is a civil order, not a criminal conviction and does not form part of a criminal record.  The order is designed to prevent the kind of behaviour that can ultimately lead to a criminal conviction.  However, breach of an ASBO is a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment on indictment and/or an unlimited fine.

Anti-Social Behaviour Orders can be obtained in respect of any person aged 10 years old and upward.  If there is an immediate need to call a halt to particular behaviour to protect the community then an Interim ASBO can be sought.

Injunctions
The Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 Order affords Housing Associations the ability to seek an injunction in respect of Anti-Social Behaviour.  An injunction can be sought in the county or high court.  These proceedings are not restricted to Housing Association tenants but can be initiated in respect of any individual who engages or threatens to engage in conduct causing or likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance to a person residing in, visiting or otherwise engaging in a lawful activity in residential premises (Article 26, Housing (NI) Order 2003) or locality of the premises.
An injunction is an order made by the court, ordering an individual to stop their Anti-Social Behaviour and may exclude them from a specific geographical area.   If the injunction is granted and the Anti-Social Behaviour continues, the individual will face further legal action and possibly a prison sentence.

Possession Proceedings
Possession proceedings would normally only be initiated by the Association as an action of last resort, when other appropriate methods of trying to stop the Anti-Social Behaviour have either failed or been exhausted.  The grounds on which possession proceedings can be brought depend on the type of tenancy.

Secure Tenants - Possession proceedings may be brought in respect of a secure tenancy if there has been a breach of the General Conditions of Tenancy and the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1983 as amended by the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 2003-as follows:

(i)  Ground 1
Any rent lawfully due from the tenant has not been paid or any obligation of the tenancy has been broken or not performed.
(ii) Ground 2
The tenant or person residing in or visiting the dwelling house:
 (a) Has been guilty of conduct causing or likely to cause nuisance or annoyance to a person residing, visiting or otherwise engaging in a lawful activity in the locality; or
 (b) Has been convicted of an offence which involves:
    (i) Using the dwelling-house or allowing it to be used for immoral or illegal purposes; or
    (ii) An indictable offence committed in, or in the locality of, the dwelling house.
(iii) Ground 2A
The dwelling-house was occupied (whether alone or with others) by a married couple or a couple living together as husband and wife and:
 (a) One or both of the partners is a tenant of the dwelling-house;
 (b) One partner has left because of violence or threats of violence by the other towards:
    (i) That partner; or
    (ii) A member of the family of that partner who was residing with that partner immediately before the partner left; and
 (c) The court is satisfied that the partner who has left is unlikely to return while the other continues to occupy the dwelling-house.
(iv) Ground 3
The condition of the dwelling-house or of any of the common parts has deteriorated owing to acts of waste by, or the neglect or default of, the tenant or any person residing in the dwelling-house and, in the case of any act of waste by, or the neglect or default of, a person lodging with the tenant or a sub-tenant of his, the tenant has not taken such steps as he ought reasonably to have taken for the removal of the lodger or sub-tenant.
The “common parts” means any part of a building comprising the dwelling house and any other premises which the tenant is entitled, under the terms of the tenancy, to use in common with the occupiers of other dwelling-houses let by the landlord.
(v) Ground 4
The condition of any relevant furniture has deteriorated owing to ill treatment by the tenant or any such person residing in the dwelling house and, in the case of any ill treatment by a person lodging with the tenant or a sub-tenant of his, the tenant has not taken such steps as he ought reasonably to have taken for the removal of the lodger or sub-tenant.
“Relevant furniture” means any furniture provided by the landlord for use under the tenancy or for use in any other common parts.

Introductory Tenants - The reason for seeking an order for possession for an introductory tenancy must relate to the behaviour which would, if the tenant was a secure tenant, fall within either Ground 2 or Ground 3 of Schedule 3 of the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1983.

Refusal of House Sale for Anti-Social Behaviour
A secure tenant will be ineligible to buy if, due to Anti-Social Behaviour, the Association has taken legal action for possession of his/her dwelling.  There are four possible stages to that action:

  • The Association is actively considering whether it would be appropriate to serve – at some time within the next three months – a relevant statutory notice seeking possession
  • The Association has served a relevant statutory notice seeking possession at any time within the previous 3 months;
  • Proceedings for possession of the dwelling pursuant to a relevant statutory notice are pending; and
  • The Tenant is obliged to give up possession of the dwelling in pursuance of an Order of the Court which has been granted pursuant to a relevant statutory notice or will be so obliged at a date specified in the Order.

Eviction
In the event of the Housing Association obtaining an Order for Possession on grounds of Anti-Social Behaviour, and the tenant does not vacate the property on a voluntary basis, the case will be referred to the Enforcement of Judgements Office.   

Commencing Legal Action
If all attempts at conciliation fail or should the alleged perpetrator fail to respond to any support package offered to address their Anti-Social Behaviour, legal action may be necessary.   In all cases this will only commence where warnings and all other methods of tackling the Anti-Social Behaviour i.e. Mediation, ABCs etc have been exhausted. 

Where legal action is deemed necessary, the Association will consider the use of civil remedies i.e. injunctions, Anti-Social Behaviour Orders to protect the complainant and/or witness(es).

Where the decision is to seek an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO), the Association will apply to the appropriate relevant authority (NIHE, District Councils or the Chief Constable of the PSNI) to make application to the courts on its behalf and advise the other relevant authorities of the intention to initiate the proceedings.

Prior to any legal proceedings the Association will ensure that:

  • the decision to initiate the proceedings has been fully considered and properly authorised by a member of staff of at least Housing Manager level by the completion of a Housing Officer and Housing Manager’s Report. A Legal Action Summary Report form should also be completed to record and confirm the preferred course of action
  • all necessary documentation and supporting evidence has been properly prepared and is readily available
  • proper legal advice has been sought and acted upon
  • the Association’s interests are fully protected by the appropriate relevant authority acting on its behalf

Court Hearing
Prior to the court hearing the Association will:

  • maintain regular contact with complainant(s)/witness(es) and advise on case development
  • explain the court process to the complainant(s)/ witness(es)
  • ensure the complainant(s)/witnesses are advised of time, date and location of hearing
  • make any necessary arrangements to ensure the complainant(s)/witness(es) attendance at the court hearing, considering assistance with transport provision if necessary
  • where possible arrange for a separate waiting room for the complainant(s)/witness(es) on the court premises.

Post Court Hearing
After the court hearing the Association will:

  • advise the complainant(s)/witness(es) and, if necessary, the local police of the outcome of the court hearing
  • continue to liaise with the complainant(s)/ witness(es) and monitor the situation subsequent to the decision of the court.

Stage 7- Case Closure and Evaluation

The Association will ensure that:

  • all cases will be progressed to conclusion and closed
  • an evaluation will be completed in respect of all cases in which legal action has been initiated
  • all closed files are retained as in line with the Association’s relevant policies

Other Support for Complainants and Witnesses
If the complainant(s)/witness(es) is/are fearful of the repercussions of providing direct evidence to the court the Association will consider the use of hearsay evidence and evidence provided by witnesses with professional expertise (i.e. officers of the statutory agencies, social workers, police force).

The Association will also favourably consider any requests for re-housing that the complainant(s)/witness(es) might make under the appropriate Housing (Northern Ireland) Orders.

Liaison with Alleged Perpetrator
The Association will also maintain contact with the alleged perpetrator to:

  • ensure that the alleged perpetrator is kept informed of all developments in the case
  • provide advice as to the existence of other agencies which may be able to offer advice and assistance should a vulnerability be identified
  • advise the alleged perpetrator of the outcome of any court hearing and the legal requirements imposed by the court.
  • monitor the behaviour of the perpetrator to ensure compliance with the decision

Complaints
Housing Associations provide help and advice to tenants and members of the public on housing matters and we aim to provide good quality services.  If a complainant is not satisfied with the final response received from the Association, the Northern Ireland Ombudsman may be asked to investigate the complaint.

The Ombudsman,
Freepost BEL 1478
Belfast
BT1 6BR 

Freephone 0800 343 424
email: ombudsman@ni-ombudsman.org.uk

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