When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Antisocial behaviour

Anti social behaviour is any type of persistent behaviour that upsets the community.  There are things that can be done to deal with certain types of anti social behaviour (ASB). A dispute with a neighbour won’t necessarily be classed as anti-social behaviour.  Behaviour that could be dealt with under anti-social behaviour laws include

  • intimidation of neighbours and others through threats or actual violence
  • harassment, including racial or homophobic behaviour
  • verbal abuse
  • systematic bullying of children in public recreation grounds, on the way to school or even on school grounds
  • abusive behaviour aimed at causing distress or fear to certain people, for example, elderly or disabled people
  • noise
  • dumping rubbish
  • animal nuisance
  • vandalism, property damage and graffiti.

Help from the Housing Executive or housing association

Housing associations and the Housing Executive have to take steps to deal with anti social behaviour if you, or the person carrying out the behaviour, rent your home from them.  There are steps that these organisations will have to follow to investigate your complaint.

If the person carrying out the anti-social behaviour is a Housing Executive or housing association tenant or a regular guest or visitor to a tenant’s home, the tenant’s landlord could take steps to evict this tenant.  Eviction is a last resort.  The landlord will try to deal with the situation through other methods first.

The social landlord can also apply for an injunction.  An injunction could prevent the person carrying out the ASB from behaving in certain ways or going to certain places. If you break the terms of an injunction you can be sent to prison.

Steps that the Housing Executive or housing association must take before eviction

If someone has complained about a tenant, the social landlord has to take certain steps before that tenant can be evicted.  If the anti-social behaviour is caused by a mental health problem or a disability the landlord will have to make sure that it takes this into account when deciding what action it can take to address the problem.

The landlord will interview you to find out what has happened. You will be asked to keep a record of any incidences of anti-social behaviour. The landlord will then interview the person you have complained about and try to convince this person to change his or her behaviour. 

If this does not work, the landlord will try to use mediation services to come to an acceptable solution.  If mediation does not resolve the problem, the landlord may decide to get an injunction or begin eviction proceedings against the tenant who is seen to be at fault.

Help from the police

You can report anti-social behaviour to the police.  The police are responsible for dealing with complaints about

  • assault
  • criminal damage
  • disorderly behaviour
  • drink/drug related offences
  • harassment
  • breach of the peace.

If you report an incident to the police remember to ask for an incident number.  You may need this later if the anti social behaviour has got so bad that you feel you can no longer live in your home and want to be rehoused by the Housing Executive.

If you’ve reported the problem to the police but it’s not getting any better, speak to an adviser at Housing Rights.  You may be able to get help from the council, the Housing Executive or a housing association. 

Help from the council

Many councils in Northern Ireland have dedicated staff to deal with anti-social behaviour.  These officers can deal with low level anti-social behaviour; like littering, dog fouling and on-street drinking.
The council also has legal powers to fine people who are involved in certain types of anti-social behaviour.  If your main concerns are noise, night-time noise, animal nuisance or a public health concern the council may be able to help.

Help from social services

Social Services may get involved if the anti-social behaviour involves a vulnerable child or adult.

Homeowners and private tenants

The police and council are the main organisations that can deal with anti-social behaviour caused by homeowners or private tenants.  A local residents’ association may be able to help if the community is being affected by the anti-social behaviour.

A private landlord does not have any responsibility to deal with anti-social behaviour caused by tenants.  If the tenant is causing a problem you may be able to find out who the landlord is by searching the Land Registry or Registry of Deeds.  The landlord may agree to speak to the tenant about the problems but is under no obligation to do so.  The landlord may be able to take steps to evict the tenant if the tenant has broken the terms of his or her tenancy agreement. 

Anti social behaviour orders and acceptable behaviour contracts

An anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) is a court order that prevents someone from carrying out certain behaviour.  An ASBO lasts for at least 2 years and you can go to prison for up to 5 years if you break the terms of your ASBO.

The council, police or Housing Executive can apply for an ASBO.  They can be issued to anyone over 10 who has behaved in a certain way towards someone they don’t live with and an ASBO is necessary to protect other people from further anti-social behaviour.

A court will only grant an ASBO if it is satisfied that there is enough evidence to prove the antisocial behaviour beyond reasonable doubt. Because it can be difficult to prove this the person who has committed the behaviour may be given an acceptable behaviour contract first. An acceptable behaviour contract is a voluntary written agreement.  The person agrees not to behave in certain ways for a period of 6 months.  If the person fails to keep to the agreement the Housing Executive, council or police may then go to court for an ASBO.