Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

'Neighbours from hell' face boot

Housing minister Grant Shapps is toughening up eviction rules over 'neighbours from hell'

So-called "neighbours from hell" face swifter eviction under plans set out by the Government.

Housing minister Grant Shapps said it could currently take over a year to kick out known troublemakers, and promised to make it easier to take possession of their homes.

Probationary tenancies will also be toughened up, and a central unit will target awkward residents.

"For too long, too many social tenants have lived in fear of neighbours from hell, whose nasty and vicious behaviour blights their neighbourhoods," Mr Shapps said.

"Victims and witnesses often have to continue living side by side with the perpetrators while action to evict them drags on for many months and sometimes years.

"That's why I want to give hope to these victims that this can and will be stopped. So I will introduce a new mandatory ground for possession, so any tenant convicted of serious anti-social behaviour can be evicted much more quickly. And I'm giving landlords and residents the support they need to reclaim their streets and make their houses feel like homes again.

"I want any tenant who comes forward to report anti-social behaviour in their area to get the support they need and deserve. And I want landlords to use the full range of powers at their disposal to tackle this menace head-on, so that the disruptive minority of social tenants don't make everyone else's lives a misery."

The mandatory possession change is meant to speed up the process by making a conviction for housing-related anti-social behaviour automatic grounds for eviction in the county court.

Mr Shapps is also exploring with the Ministry of Justice whether there are other unnecessary obstacles that are slowing down the court process. And the Government will clarify that housing associations have the same rights as local authorities to impose probationary tenancies for up to 18 months - rather than the normal period of one year.

Shadow housing minister Alison Seabeck said: "It's important that local authorities encourage people to speak out and that councils use the many powers already at their disposal effectively. Responsive local policing is also vitally important and the Tory-led Government's plans for cuts of 20% to police funding will put tackling anti-social behaviour at risk."

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