FEARS have been raised about the unintended consequences of government proposals that would allow social housing tenants to be evicted on a “three strikes” and out basis.

The potential new powers are part of a wider consultation on reforms to social housing, but Mid Devon District Council is concerned about how such a policy could be implemented.

Cllr Jim Cairney (Liberal Democrat, Crediton Boniface) said the notion that tenants could be evicted from their homes after three incidents of anti-social behaviour “does worry me”, while Cllr Frank Letch (Liberal Democrat, Crediton Lawrence) said unexpected impacts could emerge.

Cllr Frank Letch.
Cllr Frank Letch. (MDDC)

“If anti-social behaviour is littering, or noise, or quite a lot of things that people do, then it could be that people who have been in their premises for a long time quite easily get three strikes, so we have to look at this very carefully and consider the unintended consequences,” Cllr Letch said.

“It’s a simple way of looking at the issue, but the complexity of the way people live, and the stress people are now under, means that as a compassionate council we have to make sure we take everything into account.

“The simple rhetoric [of the proposals] does worry me as these things are often more complicated.”

However, Cllr Claudette Harrower (Conservative, Tiverton Westexe) thought the proposal could be useful in situations where residents are impacted by unruly neighbours, as long as it is applied “with discretion”.

“It could be that the property causing the anti-social behaviour doesn’t notice that they are causing disruption to families around them,” she said.

She added that she had known of constituents who had lived in their properties for decades, and then a new neighbour moves in and causes high levels of disruption.

“I think that’s wrong,” she added.

The issue was debated at Mid Devon District Council’s homes policy development group.

Simon Newcombe, the council’s corporate manager for public health, regulation and housing, said its anti-social behaviour officer investigated claims of disruption, as well as the persistence of it, and if it was serious enough, action could be taken through the tenancy agreement.

“It seems like the government is looking to do away with it being dealt with in this way though,” he said.

“The unintended consequences could be that some people within the property could be victims, and also that we are potentially creating more homelessness [by evicting people].

“At the moment, we deal with these things through the tenancy agreement, but the government is looking to shift it into national legislation.”

As part of its response to the consultation, which has now ended, the council asked various questions including what would count as a “strike”, who makes that judgement, whether there is a right of appeal, and how it will be consistent and proportionate.

The broader consultation is also looking to clarify policies to decide social housing applicants’ priority, such as understanding their legal connection to the UK, their connection to the local area where they are applying, and understanding their incomes.

Bradley Gerrard