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Since the Closure of Premises (Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014) was enacted on 20th October 2014, Police Inspectors or Local Authorities have been able to apply for a Closure Order, where serious anti-social behaviour is known to exist or to prohibit events which would be anti-social.
This could apply to a night-club which creates anti-social behaviour or where a ‘rave’ or festival is planned which it seems likely will also cause problems.
However, it is not only what could be described as large-scale anti-social behaviour that can be addressed with a closure order. Anyone who has lived next door or in the vicinity of the neighbours from hell will know that it is on the personal level that anti-social behaviour has the worst effect. The disturbed sleep, children bullied by the children next door, guests intimidated and offended, sometimes even violence, all can affect people for years to come.
A family in Stalybridge, Tameside, not only had the neighbours from hell but the house from hell next door. As reported in the Manchester Evening News, the innocent family had human excrement dumped in their garden. They, their neighbours and visitors, were abused, threatened with, and actually assaulted, and there was ‘lewd and aggressive behaviour’. Drunken parties kept them awake, as did banging on the walls.
After months of this torment, they alerted the Police who were granted a closure order under the 2014 Act. The tenants who are the perpetrators of ASB will have had numerous conversations with their landlords, probably the Police, but seem willing to accept the risk of a Closure Order – a serious step, as it prohibits access to the property for a period of up to 3 months.
Unlike a landlord’s attempts to address issues by eviction, obtaining a closure order is a speedy process. Once a closure notice has been issued, application is made to the Magistrates Court for a closure order and this must be heard by the Court within the next 48 hours after it has been served. The order will specify the period for which the property is closed.
The case in Tameside was viewed very seriously and the property closed for 3 months. Windows and doors were boarded. But what happens to the tenants?
If the property is closed, they can apply as homeless and should expect some temporary accommodation, but the likelihood of their being given the status of ‘Statutory Homeless’ and therefore entitled to a permanent accommodation being found is remote, as they would almost certainly be classed as ‘Intentionally Homeless’ and could therefore only expect a temporary address for a limited period of time.
Though not able to live in the property, there would still be a rental liability – without the housing benefit (if recipients) to help them pay the rent; housing benefit is only payable for the main accommodation and during the 3 months closure, it is clearly not that.
A closure order is a serious and life-changing situation. Parents will have the pain of their children deprived of their home and the distress this will cause – even the worst tenant must feel that.
After the tenant is 2 months in rent arrears, the landlord can seek possession through the Courts; homeless and with a debt on their backs, they must find somewhere else to live knowing their past antics have been in the newspaper. Perhaps the theory is that once the house is closed, they will relinquish their tenancy. That at least would stop debt accruing and perhaps, give them a chance at a fresh start somewhere else.
Landlords beware. Just make sure you ask the right questions if someone approaches from temporary accommodation.
For advice on buy to let issues – Ask Sharon