The new Anti-Social Behaviour Injunctions which can be granted by the County Court under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 are expected to come into effect in January 2015.
The injunctions can be made against individuals where the Court believes that the person has engaged in or threatens to engage in anti-social behaviour and it is appropriate to grant the injunction to prevent such behaviour in the future. The injunction can prevent a person from engaging in particular activities. For instance, they could be banned from entering a particular area, speaking to a certain individual or playing music and causing a noise nuisance late at night. These type of orders are not new, the Court has been granting injunctions on these grounds for many years under the Housing Act 1996. However, the consequences of breaching the injunction are now drastically further reaching.
The County Court can currently hold an individual in Contempt of Court and fine or imprison them for breaching the terms of the Injunction Order and this power will remain in the new year. However, the new Act has also created mandatory grounds for possession which are already in force. One of these grounds is where the individual has been found to have breached an injunction made under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014. The breach must have occurred either in their property or the locality of their property, or elsewhere but the intention of the Injunction Order was to prevent nuisance or annoyance being caused to someone who lives in the locality of the property or to the landlord and/or it’s employees.
The consequence is that tenants may be reluctant to admit to breaches of the injunctions because as well as facing a possible prison sentence, they could be admitting to behaviour which will lead to an automatic Possession Order being granted against them, leading to the eviction of them and their families.
Currently, when deciding whether to make a Possession Order in cases of anti-social behaviour the Court must consider the reasonableness of doing so. This means that where an individual has held their hands up and admitted to their actions, the Judge can take other factors into account when exercising their discretion. This can include whether the incident was a one off, whether the individual was provoked, whether there has been a marked improvement in behaviour since and whether the individual is getting help with other associated issues such as an alcohol addiction etc.
However, in the case of the new grounds for possession, the Judge will not be able to intervene to prevent a Possession Order being made unless the tenant can argue that their case is exceptional and attracts an Article 8, human rights defence, which it seems will only be possible in rare circumstances.
So 2015 could be a tough new year for tenants if landlords choose to use this new severe combination of injunction and possession proceedings.