Anti – Social Behaviour & Nuisance

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Anti-Social Behaviour

The statutory definition in the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 of Anti-Social Behaviour is:

“Conduct by any individual which causes or is likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance to a person residing, visiting or otherwise engaging in a lawful activity in the locality of the dwelling house”.

In addition:

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

  • been convicted of using the dwelling-house or allowing it to be used for illegal or immoral purposes
  • been convicted of an arrestable offence committed in, or in the locality of the dwelling house
  • directly or indirectly affected the Newington Housing Association Management functions or matters relating to those functions
 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 (rowdy parties, loud music/TV’s, 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 Newington 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.

Dealing with Anti-Social Behaviour

Newington HA understands that tenants and residents within the community may be fearful of reporting incidents of Anti-Social Behaviour. You may feel vulnerable and fear reprisals from an individual, group or household who are engaging in Anti-Social Behaviour. All complaints of Anti-Social Behaviour will be treated in the strictestconfidence if that is the complainants wish. A complaint can also be made through a residents or tenants group, and elected representatives such as a Councillor or MLAor be passed on from the PSNI.

All incidents reported to Newington HA will, as a matter of priority, be investigated by staff who will attempt to resolve the matter as quickly and informally as possible. However if the matter cannot be resolved in this way it will be necessary request a formal complaint and staff will also take statements from the victim and witnesses.

Newington Housing Association acknowledge that every individual is entitled to live in peace within their neighbourhood and that to provide a quality housing service we will effectively address the problem of Anti-Social 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
  • 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 Newington HA land whether the complainant is a tenant, private tenant or owner occupier
  • 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
Obligations of Tenants

The tenant is responsible for the behaviour of every person (including children) living in or visiting the tenants home including 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 that they are ineligible for housing and homelessness assistance in the future.

Support Complainants and Witnesses

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

Complaints of Anti-Social Behaviour can be forwarded to the following address:

Newington Housing Association
300-302 Limestone Road
Belfast
BT15 3AR

Complaints may be made in person, in writing, via phone, or by e-mail. Any report of Anti- Social Behaviour will be quickly and formally acknowledged and all reported instances will be investigated. If appropriate the complainant and the Housing Association Officer 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.

If legal action is deemed appropriate the witness 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.

Newington Housing Association will:

  • maintain contact – initiate and maintain regular contact with witness
  • explain the process – explain how the case is developed and the legal options available
  • provide information – keep witness informed of the progress of the case and provide 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 witness attends the court hearing
  • wherever possible, provide support during the court procedures and investigate the availability of separate waiting room for the witness in the court and;
  • after legal action – provide on-going witness support if necessary and monitor the situation
Professional Witnesses

Newington Housing Association will give careful consideration to the safety of complainants. Where they are not willing to provide direct evidence to the court, Newington HA will endeavour to use professional witnesses and hearsay evidence. These professional witnesses may be officers from the statutory agencies.

Sectarian and Other Harassment Policies

Newington HA 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.

Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act (1998) requires the Housing Association 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, without prejudice to its obligations set out above, the Act requires the Housing Association in carrying out its functions, to have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between those persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group.

Domestic Violence

The Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 extended the grounds for possession to include domestic violence. Newington HA is empowered to respond where a partner has vacated the dwelling house as a result of violence/threats of violence by the other partner. The violence/threat of violence could be directed at the partner or at other family members living with the partner.

As in any case of Anti-Social Behaviour, Newington HA recognises the need to ensure the safety of the individual experiencing the Anti-Social Behaviour.

The decision to seek possession of any Housing Association property on grounds of domestic violence will only be made after consultation and with the agreement of the individual concerned. It is not anticipated that Newington HA will seek possession of a property contrary to the wishes of the affected individual.

 Resolving the Problem

Preventative measures are as follows:

Warning Letters

Use of warning letters to the individual committing the Anti-Social Behaviour, is considered at an early stage.

Multi-agency Partnerships

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

In the case of Anti-Social Behaviour it facilitates discussion between the relevant authorities such as the Police, Local Councils, Community Groups, Probation, Health and Social Services, Youth Justice and Education Welfare and will aim to provide a comprehensive assessment of an individual’s problem behaviour. Newington HA will actively engage with other organisations, share best practice and as far as practicable provide the opportunity to refer the individual to an appropriate organisation for support, diversion, or another early intervention.

Introductory Tenancies

Implementation of Introductory Tenancies commenced in April 2004 and is intended to address the specific problem of Anti-Social Behaviour and allow Newington HA to assess the suitability of an individual to hold a secure tenancy.

Mediation

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

Once a case is reported, mediation should be considered in the first instance and the

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

Housing & Homelessness Policy

Newington HA shall not allocate housing accommodation to any applicant if he, or a member of his household, has been guilty of unacceptable behaviour serious enough to make him unsuitable to be a tenant of a Housing Association.

Refusal of House Sale for Anti-Social Behaviour

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

  • Newington HA is actively considering whether it would be appropriate to serve – at some time within the next three months – a relevant statutory notice seeking possession
  • Newington HA 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
  • 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
 Acceptable Behaviour Contracts

A written agreement between a person who has been involved in Anti-Social behaviour and one (or more) of the partner bodies whose role it is to prevent such behaviour

Floating Support /Tenancy Support Schemes

The Supporting People programme was introduced in Northern Ireland on 1st April 2003. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive administers the Supporting People programme and the grant in Northern Ireland.

The Housing Executive in partnership with other agencies provide floating support to vulnerable tenants and housing applicants to assist them in living independently and sustain their tenancy thus preventing a cycle of eviction because of Anti-Social Behaviour.

Secured by Design

The application of Secured by Design, particularly in new build schemes is still optional. The Department announced some time ago this award would be made ‘mandatory’ at some stage, but this has been delayed due to a resource problem within the Architectural Liaison Service of the PSNI, Crime Prevention Branch. The Department is presently discussing with PSNI other ways of delivering this service. Until then, this award remains optional for Housing Association development.

Rehabilitation of Perpetrators

When dealing with alleged perpetrators Newington HA 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. Newington HA when dealing with vulnerable individuals 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, Newington HA 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.

Cross Tenure Issues

The Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1983, Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 and Anti-Social Behaviour (Northern Ireland) Order 2004 provides Newington HA with the ability to seek Injunctions and Possessions as a result of Anti-Social Behaviour. 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 Newington HA owned/managed stock.

Data Protection and Information Exchange

Data Protection Act 1998

The Data Protection Act 1998 regulates the processing and handling of personal data that has been lawfully obtained.

The Data Protection Principles

Personal data held about you must be:

  • fairly and lawfully processed
  • processed for limited purposes and not in any way incompatible with those purposes
  • adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • accurate and kept up to date
  • not kept for longer than is necessary
  • processed in line with your rights
  • 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 the DPA which allow Newington HA 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
Confidentiality

Subject to any legal requirements, any information received by Newington HA 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.

Nuisance

Policy on this area was introduced to tackle behaviour that interferes with the rights of others to enjoy their home and community. Examples of behaviour held to be a nuisance includes excessive noise, rubbish and littering, dumping, harassment of neighbours, uncontrolled animals etc.

Noise is a one of the biggest issues in relation to nuisance, especially in apartment blocks. Tenants should keep noise to a minimum at all times to ensure no issues arise between neighbours. Complaints in relation to noise should also be reported to Noise Pollution.

Any complaints in relation to harassment should also be reported to the Police. If a nuisance continues and the offender is a tenant of Newington HA we will speak to them in relation to a possible breach of their tenancy.

Anyone wishing to make a complaint of nuisance should contact us at the office.

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