Evictions could get easier

HAVING dealt with six instances of anti-social behaviour in the past three months, Berwickshire Housing Association are welcoming new proposals from the Scottish Government aimed at tackling offenders who disrupt the communities they live in.

If ultimately approved, the measures would allow previous anti-social behaviour to be taken into account in the allocation of housing and antisocial tenants would stand to lose their tenancy rights.

In response to calls for change, proposals would result in all new social tenants getting a probationary tenancy for a year before a full Scottish Secure Tenancy is given.

The consultation also asks whether and how the process for evicting the worst offenders should be simplified.

And acknowledging that as things stand at present, this scenario can be both problematic and time consuming for the housing association, who have a dedicated member of staff working alongside police and Scottish Borders Council to crack down on anti-social behaviour, its chief executive, Helen Forsyth said she would welcome any positive intervention from the Government.

“Although we take anti-social behaviour very seriously here, it is important to say that although there are incidents of anti-social behaviour in some of our communities it is not the norm and most tenants in Berwickshire enjoy living in their home.

Tackling the few tenants who don’t stop being anti-social at present is hard and our powers to evict them are limited. We need lots of evidence from neighbours and the legal process can take years.

“We welcome the government acknowledging the effect this can have on communities and neighbours and we will be responding to the Government’s proposals with ideas about what might help us to deal with those specific cases more promptly.”

Anti-social and nuisance behaviour is behaviour that disrupts other residents’ normal use of their home and the community which they live in. It is defined by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 as behaving in “a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household”.

And in addition to having a member of staff solely responsible for dealing with the issue, Berwickshire Housing Association also has its own antisocial behaviour policy which distinguishes between what is viewed as neighbour nuisance and what is categorised as anti-social behaviour.

Neighbour nuisance is the title given to behaviour which unreasonably interferes with other people’s right to the use and enjoyment of their home and community and includes, for example, complaints about occasional excessive noise, occasional disturbances, car repairs, parking in unauthorised areas, pets out of control, untidy gardens.

Anti-social behaviour on the other hand is the label given to actions which are clearly unacceptable including vandalism and damage to property, repeat noise nuisance as well as behaviour such as rubbish dumping.

And taking things a step further a distinction is made between anti-social behaviour and serious anti-social behaviour, with the latter taking in threatening or abusive behaviour, violence, unprovoked assault, vandalism, harassment or drug dealing.

Helen Forsyth added that the Housing Association takes a very serious view of any racial harassment either against or by any Berwickshire tenants/residents and have established a separate policy for responding to racially-aggrevated behaviour.

As well as cracking down on unruly tenants, the Government’s housing proposals would see councils and housing associations given greater flexibility over housing allocations, to consider any property applicants’ own as well as their income so that social housing goes to those who need it most.