Ever since COVID-19 restrictions came into force, there has been much debate over whether exclusion orders are appropriate – to remove someone from their home during lockdown.
Landlords may have good reason to do so. But the safety of an individual, and the risks associated with them being uprooted from their home, makes it a delicate balance for lawyers and the courts. However, there are occasions when it is necessary and appropriate.
We have recently faced this very dilemma – where a landlord wanted to remove someone for persistent anti-social behaviour, violence and breaching the COVID-19 restrictions.
In this case, the Defendant was not a tenant but a ‘permitted occupier.’ He had lived with the tenant from the very start of the rental agreement. The landlord wasn’t aware of any other address for him. So, the property was therefore regarded as his home.
The landlord was first made aware of the anti-social behaviour on 14 April 2020. Police attended the property a number of times after neighbours reported regular parties at the home, contravening social distancing rules, as well as loud music playing throughout the night and drug use.
There were additional complaints of fighting between the Defendant and visitors. Over the Easter bank holiday weekend, the police had attended 6 times and, overall, had attended 14 times since the end of March 2020.
The landlord had to act and felt the only way to protect other residents and the community at large was an order excluding the Defendant from the property. Police intervention had done nothing to curb the behaviour, nor the flouting of the social distancing rules.
On the other hand, would an exclusion force the Defendant to continue to flout the social distancing rules by having to move in with another household - or place more pressure on the local authority homeless services?
It was a fine balance in our opinion and the landlord felt very strongly that, in this case, the interests of the community far outweighed those of the Defendant.
On 4 May 2020, our housing management team secured a without notice injunction that included a term prohibiting the Defendant from returning to the property that had been the source of the anti-social behaviour. The injunction was made final at a return hearing on 12 May 2020.
The court agreed with the landlord that the interests of the community came first, and needed little persuasion to grant the injunction or the exclusion. It is hoped that the order will bring some much-needed respite and relief to the community.
It’s comforting to know that in the right circumstances, the safety and well-being of law-abiding innocent members of the community will not be comprised.
If you’re dealing with similar situations and are not sure where to turn, then do give the Hugh James Housing Management team a call. We’d be happy to assist.
About the Authors:
Bethan Gladwyn is Head of the Hugh James Housing Management team. She has over 15 years’ experience advising local authorities and registered social landlords on all issues of housing management and tenancy enforcement, particularly in relation to measures to combat nuisance and anti-social behaviour.
She regularly handles cases involving complex Equality Act defences as well as public law and human rights challenges and advises clients on matters ranging from succession to disrepair.
Eleanor Walters is a Solicitor in the Housing Management team. She has over 12 years’ experience in dealing with residential landlord and tenant matters. Since joining Hugh James in February 2019, she has advised local authorities and social landlords on all issues of housing management and tenancy enforcement, particularly in relation to issues of anti-social behaviour, possession and disrepair. She regularly handles cases involving serious anti-social behaviour which require applications for civil injunctions and committal proceedings.