Councils enact powers to crack down on problem tenants

There were at least 4,089 complaints regarding alleged antisocial behaviour (ASB) in 21 local authority areas last year — and the number of difficult tenants removed from their homes could rise this year as councils enact new powers.

Councils enact powers to crack down on problem tenants

A trawl of statistics from many of the country’s local authorities found that some incurred very little, if any, cost regarding ASB in council properties, yet one — Dublin City Council — had a legal bill of almost €162,000 last year as a result of dealing with ASB cases.

Separate figures also indicate an increase in the number of cases of alleged antisocial behaviour involving private rental properties and being dealt with by the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB).

The figures from 21 of the country’s local authorities also indicate a number of refusals of offers of local housing on the grounds of ASB. Galway City Council was the local authority area with the highest number of refusals on ASB grounds, with 21 refusals, while Cork County Council had 16 refusals to move as a result of ASB concerns and 15 local housing applicants in Leitrim cited ASB as reasons for refusing the offer of a house.

Cork County Hall
Cork County Hall

However, ASB complaint figures are relatively low in those councils compared with some other areas. For example, South Dublin County Council, which had 8,965 housing units in its control last year, received 1,308 ASB complaints and initiated 5,802 actions as a result.

The local authority with the next highest number of ASB complaints last year was Dublin City Council, with 948 complaints lodged last year. It said its total legal costs last year regarding antisocial behaviour was €161,529.80 — vastly more than any other local authority spent on dealing with ASB in 2014.

There were also different approaches regarding how to deal with requests from tenants for a transfer as a result of alleged ASB. While Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council said it had received 17 such requests, and had a general policy of not permitting them unless there was a serious threat to life or damage to property, South Dublin County Council facilitated the transfer of nine tenants due to ASB.

The figures also indicate that a very small number of tenants are evicted from a property as a result of ASB or surrender the property following discussions with the local authority.

Wexford County Council said a number of tenants, on being informed of its intention to instigate legal proceedings either abandoned the property or voluntarily surrendered the keys, but among the other local authorities fewer than 50 tenants were removed or surrendered the property, although there were a number of exclusion orders secured in other cases.

Cork City Council, which had 85 ASB complaints in 2014, secured three court orders and 17 tenants were evicted or surrendered the property — the highest figure among the 21 local authorities that provided data.

Cork City Hall
Cork City Hall

Local authorities should find it easier to remove problem tenants in future after new powers were granted to them in April this year.

Local authorities had acted under Section 62 of the Housing Act 1966 to deal with problematic tenants, but judgements in the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights raised doubts over its use.

The Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014 was enacted last year and commencement orders for the relevant sections of the act dealing with ASB were activated in April.

According to Patricia Liddy, senior executive officer officer in Limerick Council’s home and social development section: “As such, new powers which can ultimately lead to repossession of houses for anti-social behaviour are now in place and will be used where deemed appropriate.”

Meanwhile, the PRTB last year received 251 applications alleging anti-social behaviour, 7% of all complaints it received. Last year the PRTB received 165 ASB complaints, 6% of all complaints lodged.

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