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Derogatory communications from tenants and ASB action

Lindsay Felstead reports on a recent case of repeated anti-social behaviour by a resident in an over-55’s complex.

Clarke Willmott successfully obtained an injunction against the tenant. However, when the tenant repeatedly breached the order, we were instructed on the associated committal proceedings. Following a contested one-day trial, the landlord was successful in obtaining an order for committal. The tenant was sentenced to a 28-day suspended prison sentence per breach, subject to complying with the terms of the injunction order.

Case details

Our client (the claimant) was a not-for-profit organisation managing 19,000 homes in South East London.

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An elderly resident in an over 55s complex was responsible for writing posters, emails and letters to the claimant’s staff containing threatening, foul, racist, defamatory and derogatory language. The language used accused staff running a care home of being Nazis, pro-Stalin and not acting in the interests of residents. The emails became more and more targeted towards individual members of staff, accusing them of taking money from the care home residents and torturing them. The tenant purported himself as the leader of an unofficial residents’ association to front his abusive tirade of behaviour against the lead member of staff at the care home.

This campaign of anti-social behaviour continued for several months at which point we were instructed by our client to obtain an injunction to prevent nuisance, harassment, and annoyance. We persuaded a Judge to grant an injunction with a power of arrest in light of the behaviour.

An injunction was obtained and served on the tenant, preventing him from threatening or using abusive language against our client’s staff, or committing any further anti-social behaviour.

Almost immediately, the tenant failed to comply with the Court order and continued to send derogatory and defamatory communications to the claimant. Our client had acted reasonably in warning the tenant that communications of this nature were unacceptable and in breach of the injunction order. The tenant was made aware that if his attacks on our client’s staff continued, that an application for committal would be made.

Not long after these warnings, which the tenant had failed to heed, the tenant was involved in an incident where he threatened staff carrying out an electrical check by following them around and hovering near them in a threatening manner whilst attempting to carry out their duties.

Due to the severity and regularity of the abusive language and behaviour form the tenant, we were instructed to pursue a committal application. We raised ten allegations against the tenant and attended two hearings. The tenant represented himself and our client was instructed by Counsel.

At the contested committal trial, the tenant attempted to undermine the credibility of our client’s witnesses. Due to the tenant’s lack of legal training, and lack of understanding of the law, and despite being provided with pointers from the Judge, the tenant was not able to defend the allegations made against him.

The tenant was wholly unsuccessful in defending the committal application which resulted all ten breaches of the injunction order were found against him. He was sentenced to a 28-day suspended prison sentence per breach to run concurrently, subject to him complying with the terms of the original injunction order.

Whilst the Power of Arrest was attached to the injunction and our client has the option to invoke the suspended sentence in the event further breaches occur, we have since also been instructed on a mandatory possession matter related to these proceedings.

Dealing with this tenant’s anti-social behaviour had taken up a significant amount of our client’s internal resources and had affected the ability of members of staff to carry out their roles. The tenant had been targeting individual members of staff within our client’s organisation causing them harassment and alarm whilst trying to carry out their jobs. This case was important not just to free up our client’s housing management resources, but also to demonstrate that as landlord, our client would not tolerate this kind of behaviour from anyone. It also provided relief to other residents, allowing them to peacefully enjoy their homes.

Key take out

On-going anti-social behaviour can be difficult and time-consuming to deal with. Expert legal advice can assist in deciding on the most appropriate course of action given any particular set of circumstances. Swift and robust action can then be taken to protect both clients, staff and other tenants.

Lindsay Felstead is a partner and Head of the Housing Management team at Clarke Willmott.

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