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Tackling Anti-Social Behaviour

Sovereign’s policy on anti-social behaviour

Sovereign Housing Association is committed to dealing effectively with all aspects of anti-social behaviour and breaches of tenancy agreement.

We believe it is the right of every resident to live peacefully in their homes, free from the fear of antisocial behaviour. We will take all incidents of antisocial behaviour seriously and reported cases will be assessed and recorded. There may be some incidents that we do not consider to be anti-social behaviour and in these circumstances the Group could decide not to take any action other than to give advice to the complainant.

If direct action is considered appropriate, we will investigate and consider the frequency and severity of incidents and their effect on the victim(s) before deciding on the action necessary to tackle the problem.

We have detailed procedures for dealing with many types of anti-social behaviour including public disorder, drugs, noise, violence, harassment, dogs, vehicles and vandalism.

 

Who does this policy apply to?

This policy and related procedures apply to all properties owned and / or managed by the Group.

This includes our tenants, leaseholders, shared owners, people living in key worker or market rented accommodation. We recognise that we have a duty to develop and maintain sustainable communities with all residents, and we will work with other agencies to do this.

Separate procedures may exist depending upon the business activity. For example, there may be additional procedures in place for residents in supported housing to complement arrangements in place with our Managing Agents.

 

What is anti-social behaviour?

Anti-social behaviour is conduct that causes annoyance or distress to neighbours, people in the locality or to our employees and contractors. It includes acts by you as the tenant, your partner, your children, your pets and anyone who may be visiting your property.

The perception of anti-social behaviour could be anything from fairly minor irritations, such as children playing to the most serious cases of violence and harassment.

 

Your obligation

Residents must behave in a reasonable way and not interfere with other residents’ peaceful enjoyment of their homes. This is part of your tenancy agreement, which is a legal document.

You should always try and resolve disputes between yourselves first; particularly if this is because there is a clash of lifestyles. When we are deciding whether we should become involved, we will look at how you have tried to resolve the problem first.

 

Who can help?

It is not always possible for us to resolve every type of anti-social behaviour or dispute. We will try to give you advice about what you can do yourself or information on other agencies that can help.

Under the Human Rights Act 1998, we should only become involved if the effect of the anti-social behaviour outweighs the effect of us interfering in the private life of another resident as we try to resolve the problem. This may mean that in some cases there is no action we can take. For example, normal household noise during the daytime or if you disagree because your lifestyles are different.

In some cases of anti-social behaviour we have very limited or no power to take action on your behalf, but other agencies may have different powers, for example the Police or the Environmental Health Department. We will tell you if this is the case and give contact details for these other agencies.

 

What can I do to help myself?

In most cases you should try to resolve any differences you have with your neighbours by talking things through and by compromise. Often someone causing nuisance may not realise that what they are doing affects you and you can resolve the situation amicably by pointing it out to them politely.
Involving us before talking with your neighbour may just make the situation worse, as your neighbour will feel you have not given them the opportunity to put matters right before making it official.

Another option may be to participate in mediation.

Mediation aims to help people reach an agreement.The key to mediation is that you can decide on the terms of agreement yourselves. We will consider referring disputes to a mediation service where appropriate. In certain circumstances we can help fund mediation services.

Clearly there may be situations where talking to the person causing the anti-social behaviour is not advisable, for example where they may be threatening you. In such cases you should contact us and the Police straight away.

 

How can I report anti-social behaviour?

If you wish to report an incident of anti-social behaviour to us, this can be done in a number of ways: by telephone, email or letter, through our Website, or by visiting our offices in person.

When you report anti-social behaviour to us we will advise you of the process involved in trying to resolve the problem and whether or not we can help.

All reports received will be recorded and individually assessed.

 

Customer response timescales

We will record every case that is reported to us and assess it to decide whether it is an anti-social behaviour. We will take into account how serious the incidents are, how often they take place and the effect that they have on you and your neighbours. We will look at other contributing factors such as the construction of the building. We will also consider the intentions of the person who is carrying out the behaviour and if they have any disability or support needs.

After the initial assessment, all reports of anti-social behaviour will be given a Priority Category. This will determine the timescale for response.

PRIORITY 1 - Serious anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated at any level. Where there is evidence that the household is at risk of serious assault or in danger, or there is persistent, substantial harassment and the victim is considered vulnerable, the case will be determined as a priority 1. Examples are:

  • Actual violence or threats of violence (including domestic violence)
  • Racial or any other form of harassment
  • Confirmed Class A Drug Dealing

We have a victim-orientated approach when dealing with such cases and these will be treated as urgent.

Priority 1 cases require a response within the same working day.

PRIORTY 2 - Where there is evidence of anti-social behaviour, but no one is considered to be at immediate risk. Examples include the following:

  • Drug dealing, unless the complainant is considered to be at risk or it is confirmed that Class A drugs are involved
  • Drug use, unless the complainant is considered to be at risk
  • Nuisance from animals
  • Vandalism and graffiti (unless racist or offensive)
  • Regular loud noise including loud music, shouting and swearing, noise from televisions and radios, or vehicular noise during unsociable hours (after 11pm and before 7am)
  • Unroadworthy/abandoned vehicles
  • Litter/Rubbish
  • Public disorder

Priority 2 cases require an initial response before the end of the next working day. This may be an acknowledgement depending on how serious the issue is.

PRIORITY 3 – Incidents which may be causing a nuisance but which are not considered to be antisocial behaviour and do not present a risk. Examples include:

  • Household noise
  • Isolated incidents of loud music during the daytime
  • Potential one-off incidents such as a party or DIY work
  • Children playing or youths socialising/playing ball games
  • Parking issues
  • Clashes of Lifestyle (including disturbance to shift workers)
  • Minor disputes between individual neighbours where there is no independent evidence

We will record these complaints but we may not take any action. We will give advice and may offer mediation, as well as information about other agencies that can help.

Priority 3 cases require a response within one working week.

 

Resolving a neighbour dispute

It can take some time to resolve disputes between neighbours. We must stay impartial throughout the process and not show either side any favouritism. When we receive a report of anti-social behaviour we have to investigate both sides of the story and gather the facts together to try and resolve the situation.

You may be asked to keep a diary of the events that cause a nuisance to you and this may need to be done over a period of time so that enough evidence is gathered. We know that this can be time consuming and stressful, but what you see or hear could be needed as evidence at a later stage. Each person witnessing the incident will be asked to keep their own record of events.

What action will the Group take?

We will try and resolve the situation informally wherever possible. We will support the people involved so that they can try to solve their differences themselves. One of the options that we encourage people to use is mediation. We are happy to arrange this where appropriate.

We will look at how serious the incidents are, how often they take place, the effect on the victim and the evidence available before we decide what action to take.

In some cases, typically where the perpetrator is a young person, we may set up a contract with them called an ‘Acceptable Behaviour Contract’ (ABC). This contract will detail the behaviour expected of the perpetrator, and we will monitor the contract closely.

 

Legal action

If a problem continues and is of a serious enough nature to breach the tenancy conditions, we may have to begin legal proceedings against the perpetrator to prevent them from causing further anti-social behaviour or to remove them from the property. Legal action is a last resort and is only considered once all other options and remedies have been explored.

To take legal action we need to provide evidence to the Court to show that the behaviour of the perpetrator has been unacceptable. We also need to show the effect that this has had on people living in the area. This evidence may be written down, for example in letters or diary sheets. You may need to be prepared to record events over a period of time. You may also have to go to Court to give evidence. We will support you throughout this process.

The legal process can take many months, as we have to follow legal requirements and wait for Court dates to be set. Our ability to speed up this process is extremely limited but we will keep in close contact with you and keep you informed of progress with the case.

Legal action may involve us applying for Injunctions, Possession Orders, Demotion Orders or Anti-Social Behaviour Orders.

 

What evidence will be needed?

Incident diaries are vital as they are often the basis for our evidence. We will give you incident diary sheets to use and explain how best to record the incidents you witness.

If you need to give evidence in Court you will refer to these diary sheets. We know that giving evidence can be difficult and we will support you through the process.

 

When will the Group close a case?

We will close a case where the situation has been resolved and the person who made the complaint is happy for us to do so.

In certain circumstances we will close cases even if the person who made the complaint does not want us to. This will be where we believe we have done everything we can that is reasonable and proportionate to resolve the complaint.

We will close cases when:

  • Diary sheets have not been returned after three months
  • We will also close a case where the complainant has failed to respond to our requests for further information.
  • The nuisance experienced is because neighbours have difference lifestyles and the person who made the complaint is not willing to take part in mediation.
  • If we decide to close a case against the wishes of the person who made the complaint, we will record why we have done this and advise them what they can do next.

 

Help with specific types of nuisance

Below is some information to help you about specific types of anti-social behaviour that may arise.

Harassment/hate relates incidents

We will take all reports of harassment and hate-related crime very seriously. Harassment is defined as “unreciprocated and unwelcome comments, looks, actions, suggestions or physical contact that is found objectionable and offensive and that might frighten or intimidate”.

Harassment can be directed against anyone, including but not limited to lesbians, gay men or people with disabilities.

A racist incident is defined by the Stephen Lawrence enquiry as “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”. If you experience or witness harassment or other hate-related crime then you should report it to the Police immediately and then to us. We will do everything we can to assist you or put you in touch with people who can be of more help, if appropriate. We can also arrange for an interpreter and/or advocate to be present if you need one.

 

Drugs

If you believe that drug dealing is happening at one of our properties, you should report this to the Police first and then to us. Once the Police have investigated this matter, should they provide evidence of drugs offences, we will then consider the appropriate action to be taken.

 

Noise nuisance

If you are disturbed by unreasonable levels of noise, for example from televisions or radios, first approach your neighbour and explain politely that you are being troubled by noise. You may find this difficult, but often people are unaware of the problem they are causing. Most will be glad to do what they can to reduce noise.

If this does not resolve the problem or you feel that you are unable to discuss the matter directly with the perpetrator you should contact us to register the details of the nuisance. We will supply you with an Incident Diary to complete in order to keep a record of the dates, time and nature and effect of the noise nuisance. The completed Incident Diary will enable us to determine the action to be taken.

The Environmental Health Department at the Local Authority are more often able to help with cases of serious noise nuisance, as they have different powers to deal with this type of anti-social behaviour.

If they consider that the noise is a nuisance, they will contact the perpetrator, informally at first, to tell them that the noise must stop. If it continues they may issue a Noise Abatement Notice. If the problem still continues, the Local Authority can prosecute the person causing the noise.

 

Violence and threats of violence

This type of anti-social behaviour is very serious and no resident should have to live in fear of violence.

Violence or threats of violence are crimes and the incidents should also be reported to the Police. We will liaise with the Police over any incident(s) and agree the appropriate action to be taken by both organisations.

Again, the action taken will be proportionate to the seriousness of the situation and the effect on the victim. We will also provide support to the victim whilst the case is being dealt with.

 

Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse is serious and you should report it to the Police as well as to us. Our main role is to work towards a situation that prevents further domestic abuse. This may involve working with other agencies.

Sovereign Housing Association has a separate policy on Domestic Abuse. Please contact us if you require further information on this subject.

 

Other General Crime

There is a range of crime-related anti-social behaviour.

The fact that someone has committed a crime is not in itself grounds for the Group to take further action against them however offensive or upsetting the crime may have been. In order for a crime to be relevant it would have to breach the Conditions of Tenancy or directly affect the neighbourhood or people living there.

If you are aware of a crime being committed, you should report this to the Police and then to us. We will then liaise with the Police and agree on the appropriate action to be taken.

 

Dogs and other pets

It is a condition of the tenancy agreement that any pet kept in one of our properties must not cause a nuisance to neighbours. Pets cannot be kept without our permission.
If a pet causes a nuisance, for example a dog barking excessively, fouling or roaming without a lead you should report this to us. We will then contact the pet owner who will be given the opportunity to improve the situation within a given period of time. If the problem continues, we will withdraw permission for the pet to be kept at there.

The Environmental Health Department at the Local Authority or the dog warden may also help with nuisance caused by dogs; for example, they may seize a dog if it is roaming without a lead or they may fine owners who are failing to look after their dogs in a responsible manner. The Police can also help with problems caused by certain breeds of dogs and may be able to take action under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

 

Vehicles

It is a breach of your tenancy to keep a vehicle on any roads, parking areas or land owned by us if it is not privately owned, taxed and roadworthy. You may not keep caravans, boats, trailers or any vehicle used for business purposes on our land without our permission.

Major vehicle repairs, inconsiderate parking or blocking other roads, driveways and parking areas are not permitted.

 

Estate appearance and property neglect

If you notice anything around the estate such as vandalism, graffiti or rubbish you should contact us with the details as soon as possible.

We will take prompt action to remove graffiti, repair vandalism and remove dumped rubbish. We may need to report the matter to the Police as vandalism and graffiti are also criminal offences. Racist or other offensive graffiti will be removed within 24 hours.

Reports of property neglect will also be taken seriously as this is often a sign that a property may have been abandoned. You should also report damaged fencing, smashed windows or untidy gardens.

If you know who is responsible for the problem you can tell us in confidence. We will then make contact with them and they may be asked to put things right or be charged for the costs involved. If we do not know who is responsible, we may contact all residents in the area to make them aware that the problem is unacceptable. If we cannot find out who is responsible then the cost of dealing with this will be added to the service charge for the areas. This means that everyone in the area shares the cost of putting things right.

 

Appeals

You may request a review of a decision at any stage of the process if you are not satisfied with a decision or action taken. Such an appeal must be made within 21 working days of the decision and must be in writing.

Please note that this is separate from the Complaints Procedure. The Appeals Process should be pursued if you would like a review of a decision we have made.

You should use the Complaints Procedure if you are unhappy with the way that we have handled an issue or dealt with you.

There are three stages to our Appeals Process:

Stage 1 – the appropriate Manager will assess the reasons for the decision. You will receive an acknowledgement within five working days which will confirm the timescale when a full response to the appeal will be made – usually within six weeks depending on the nature of the appeal.

Stage 2 – if you are dissatisfied with the response to Stage 1, you may escalate the appeal to a Senior Manager who will carry out further investigations. You will receive an acknowledgement within five working days which will confirm the timescale when a full response to the appeal will be made – usually within 21 working days depending on the nature of the appeal.

Stage 3 – if you remain dissatisfied, as a third and final stage, you may request that an Appeal Panel considers your appeal. The Appeal Panel consists of two members of the Group’s Board and one member of the Executive Management Team. You are able to attend the Appeal hearing in person or be represented by an advocate or provide a written statement. Equally, you do not have to attend or be represented at the meeting if you do not wish to. We will confirm the date of the hearing within 21 working days. You may bring someone with you to the hearing. You will receive a response within two weeks after the hearing.

If you are still not satisfied with the outcome of your appeal, you may wish to make a formal complaint and follow the complaint process.

 

Our policy on confidentiality and data protection

Any information given to us will be treated in confidence. It will not be passed to either the person named in the information or any external agency without the permission of the person who gave the information.

The exception to this may be where there is a health and safety risk and disclosure of the information would alleviate this risk. Essentially, personal data can only be disclosed for the purposes of considering action under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, to prevent a crime/fear of crime and/or any form of abuse to a child.
Whilst partnerships and multi-agency liaison is essentially about sharing information, Data Protection Legislation and agencies individual policies on confidentiality are still applicable.

 

Our policy on equality and diversity

Our Anti-Social Behaviour Policy and related procedures have been developed to support our commitment to equality of access and quality of service delivery. We will ensure that no customer is disadvantaged irrespective of their race, gender (including gender reassignment), religion or belief, colour, ethnic or national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, age, disability, or social position in accordance with the Sovereign Housing Association Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy.

We will ensure that specific communication or support requirements and equal access to the service is available. We will monitor reports of ASB to identify and address any inequality of access to the service.

Furthermore we will record and monitor incidents of ASB and the actions taken to ensure no individual or group is excluded.

 

More information

If you require more information about our approach to anti-social behaviour, please write to us, send us an email or call our Contact Centre .

 

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  • Spectrum House, Grange Road,
    Christchurch, Dorset, BH23 4GE
  • 0300 777 7837
  • contact@sovereign.org.uk
Great homes • Strong communites • Residents at the Heart