A new law has been passed which allows injunctions to be obtained by housing providers, amongst others, against children as young as 10. The civil injunctions will replace ‘ASBOs’ which are currently dealt with in the criminal courts. Housing lawyers and housing associations will find themselves in the youth court and engaging with the youth offending team for the first time. Currently an anti-social behaviour injunction is only available for adults.
As housing lawyers we already act on behalf of clients who find themselves arrested for breach of an injunction, often an injunction granted by a Judge without the client even being in court, less still having their opportunity to explain what has happened.
We have a team of housing lawyers ready and willing to go out to court to assist these people. Often the Police aren’t aware that the client needs a housing lawyer and not a criminal lawyer. There are stringent limits as to how quickly anyone arrested must be seen by a Judge and it is vital that anyone finding themselves in this position obtains legal advice. We can then go on to consider and advise on the injunction itself. If we can help right from the beginning we may be able to prevent the injunction being granted at all. An adult can be prevented from going to their own home, whilst under the new provisions, children cannot.
The new injunctions will be available against tenants of social housing as well as individuals who own their own property and live in private rented accommodation.
Under the current provisions anyone found to have breached an injunction can be sent to prison for up to two years. As the consequences are so serious, legal aid is available subject to a means assessment, and specialist advice really needs to be obtained urgently. Too often we see tenants only asking for help when the landlord then issues possession proceedings to have the tenant evicted from the property.
The new act means that Judges will have less discretion when possession of a property is being sought because a tenant has committed a criminal offence or anti-social behaviour. This will make it more difficult for a tenant to fight to keep their property. The new act is expected to come into force later this year.
By Joanne Ellis, Partner and head of the housing law team
If you have received any notice or paperwork from your landlord about an injunction now is the time to get advice. The housing team are on hand to help you at any stage but the sooner you seek our help the better.