What should letting agents and landlords do if a tenant is involved in anti-social behaviour?

11 March 2024

Anti-social behaviour can affect a property and the surrounding community. So how can letting agents and landlords prevent this with their tenants?

Anti-social behaviour has been an issue in England for years, with more than a million reports received a year. In 2021, The English Private Landlord Survey reported that “just under a third (32%)” of landlords ended their tenancy due to anti-social behaviour. 

The Government continues to provide plans and legislation to tackle anti-social behaviour, from the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan to introducing selective licensing as part of the Fairer Private Renter Sector.

Landlords and letting agents can also face the consequences of their tenants committing anti-social behaviour. The Government introduced Selective Licensing Schemes to ensure privately rented homes are well managed, otherwise they can face unlimited fines. Landlords have previously faced over £150,000 in repairs due to drug farms in their property.

Here are everything landlords and letting agents should know about how to tackle anti-social behaviour:

What is anti-social behaviour?

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998, states that anti-crime social behaviour is “Acting in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons, not of the same household”.

Common anti-social behaviour related to housing can include:

  • Loud music, TV, or noise at all times of the day
  • Rubbish or littering outside of a property
  • Drunken behaviour that disturbs others
  • Intimidating or harassing people
  • Using the property for illegal purposes

However, more serious anti-social behaviour can include illegal drug activity and modern slavery. 

How are landlords and letting agents affected by illegal drug activity?

It’s not just tenants who can be affected by illegal drug activity taking place in a privately rented home. In 2022, a landlord in London faced £150,000 worth of repairs to their home after illegal cannabis farms were created in their rental properties, and the managing letting agent was accused of negligence and taken to court.

Landlords are also liable depending on the circumstances of the offence if the landlord is aware of the activity and doesn’t report it.

According to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981, a landlord can be liable if the following takes place on their property:

  • Producing or attempting an illegal controlled drug
  • Supplying or attempting to supply an illegal controlled drug
  • Preparing to smoke opium
  • Smoking weed, cannabis resin or prepared opium

How can landlords and letting agents prevent anti-social behaviour?

In order to prevent anti-social behaviour, it is important for landlords and letting agents to know who they are renting to. This is why conducting pre-tenancy checks is so important.

A comprehensive referencing check can help letting agents and landlords feel safe and secure who they are renting to. Some providers - such as Vouch - give letting agents the tools to conduct their references. Other providers - such as Goodlord - have in-house teams conducting different referencing checks to suit every need.

If a landlord or letting agent still feels cautious about their prospective tenants, conduct a meeting before signing the tenancy agreement. This is so the letting agent and/or landlord can discuss the property with the tenant, and explain any anti-social behaviour clauses they need to be aware of.

Find out more about tenant referencing

What should letting agents and landlords do if a tenant commits anti-social behaviour?

If a tenant is committing anti-social behaviour, it can be a breach of their tenancy agreement.

There are steps a landlord or letting agent should take before evicting a tenant for anti-social behaviour. This includes sending a written warning to explain what will happen if the behaviour continues.

If after the warning the anti-social behaviour continues, a landlord can consider contacting the police or local authority, or even ending the tenancy early.

Find out the new rules for landlords to crack down on anti-social tenants

Can a landlord or letting agent end a tenancy early for anti-social behaviour?

As part of the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, the government is looking to crack down on anti-social behaviour in 2024. This includes making it ‘easier to evict tenants who are persistently disrespectful and disruptive to their neighbours’.

Landlords and letting agents can evict tenants under section 21 or section 8 legislation if they continuously conduct anti-social behaviour.

Through section 21, landlords can provide a ‘no-fault’ eviction, meaning they won’t need to provide notice of anti-social behaviour and instead end the tenancy.

However, through the Renters (Reform) Bill, section 21 may be abolished. This will only happen if “sufficient progress has been made to improve the courts". So this process might not be available to landlords in the future.

Landlords and letting agents can serve a Section 8, only if sufficient evidence proves that anti-social behaviour has occurred. Landlords and letting agents must fill in a ‘Notice seeking possession of a property let on an assured tenancy or an assured agricultural occupancy’.

For cases of serious behaviour, landlords can provide a shorter period of two weeks to use the existing mandatory eviction notice.

How to spot illegal drug activity in a rental property

It’s important for landlords and letting agents to be aware of what’s happening in their rental property to ensure their tenants aren’t causing issues within the local community.

Landlords and managing agents should be aware of what the property is being used for, so conducting regular visits to the property, with 24-hour notice is recommended. Here’s what letting agents and landlords should look out for:

  • Chemical smells
  • Illegal drug paraphernalia
  • Black out windows or curtains that weren’t installed before tenants moved in
  • Large utility bills

What should letting agents and landlords do if you suspect illegal drug activity in the property?

As soon as a letting agent or landlord is suspicious of any illegal activity conducted in their rental property, they should take action to avoid any repercussions coming back to them.

If a managing agent or landlord feels comfortable doing so, speak to tenants and let them know of their suspicions.

If they do not feel comfortable, speak to the police as soon as possible, as they can conduct a search on the property without you needing to be there.

If there is enough evidence, landlords can use a section 8 notice to evict tenants for illegal drug activity, whether that is using or supplying. However, there must be sufficient evidence to serve this notice, so take photos around the property of any suspicious activity.

However, this may be changing soon as Conservative ministers have proposed to allow “hearsay” evidence in eviction claims for antisocial behaviour as part of the Renters (Reform) Bill amendments.

Find out more about Section 21 evictions and no-fault evictions.

This article is intended as a guide only and does not constitute legal advice, please visit gov.uk for more information. 

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