I've recently moved into the first flat I’ve ever lived in alone and have been dealing with seriously antisocial behaviour from my upstairs neighbours. It started with just stupidly loud music but now it's just constant problems, from having loads of people round 24/7 (the police came round once over breaching lockdown but they wouldn't answer the door), stinking out the whole building with weed and a few instances of aggression.
I’ve been taking all the usual channels like reporting to the anti-social behaviour helpline, the police and contacting my local councillors but no one is able to help due to lockdown (apparently) as they're not conducting home visits. I'm paying so much to live here and really just not enjoying it at all.
Reader, your neighbour is trash. I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this. They sound like an old ex who once boasted that a neighbour came to their front door at 4 AM with a baseball bat to break up an afterparty. (Reader, we broke up, but I can still hear the dodgy deep house.)
Tempted as I’m sure you’ve been to take matters into your own hands, baseball bat or not, you’ve done the right thing by contacting the authorities. I can only imagine how difficult this is – what you’re describing isn’t just a nightmare neighbour. It’s a lack of control over your own living environment in the first place you’ve ever lived alone. You must have thought you’d finally be able to do things on your own terms but instead you’re a tiny boat caught in the turbulent sea of your neighbour’s drug habit and lockdown parties.
First things first, keep your receipts. I know it will read like the worst diary of all time, but log everything that’s happening with a date and time. The council, police or any legal representative you may have to engage with will likely ask for it.
I’ve checked with Shelter advisor Andy Parnell and the protections really depend on whether your neighbour owns their flat, rents it privately or from the council or a housing association. Regardless, though, behaving antisocially which is an offence under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Nobody is exempt from accountability if they have broken the law – not someone who lives in social housing and not a middle class kid who thinks they’re a DJ because they have Traktor.
Andy notes that whether private or socially renting, “it may well be that your neighbour is breaching their tenancy agreement because of their behaviour, and this alone will give the council or their landlord several options”.
It sounds as though you’ve already contacted your council’s antisocial behaviour team but you should now contact their housing team. “It does sound a bit unusual that the council’s ASB team haven’t already done this if you’ve told them about your neighbour,” Andy says, “but they might not pass on information between departments as a matter of routine. The housing department can then decide what to do next. This could range from a simple warning all the way through to seeking an injunction against your neighbour to stop this behaviour.”
If you need it, there’s more information about how to report a noise nuisance to your council on this government website. It might also be worth seeing if your council’s environmental health team can help. Andy says they often have an option to report noise nuisance, and the environmental health team might be able to install noise monitoring equipment in your home. They also might have a range of steps they can take, including writing to your neighbour and court action.
If none of this works, you could apply for a court injunction to stop your neighbour yourself. This is not going to come cheap and you would need a lawyer. But if you were successful, you might be able to claim some of the costs back. (Note: some.) You can find solicitors in your area using the Law Society website, but I realise this would not be a light undertaking.
Everyone should be able to feel that their home is a sanctuary. I hope you get this sorted, soon. There’s more information about dealing with problem neighbours on the Citizens Advice website and Shelter’s website.
I know you wrote about the new laws protecting people on benefits being discriminated against by private landlords. Was wondering if you knew if it is legal for landlords to ask for six months rent in advance? I’ve checked everywhere and cannot find clarity.
Discrimination takes many forms. It’s a bottomless tool box of different gadgets that all work, in different ways, towards the same end: constructing a system that is designed to benefit some people and disadvantage others. Unfortunately, this means that those who are prejudiced against other people because of their ethnicity, class, financial situation, gender or sexuality are always able to find something to work with.
Housing discrimination, whereby private landlords decide against renting their properties to people receiving state support, is no different. This insidious behaviour is also known commonly as “No DSS”. It refers to the Department of Social Security which closed in 2001 and was replaced by the Department of Work and Pensions, the government agency that now oversees housing benefit as it is administered through Universal Credit.
Despite the fact that this year was full of some of the worst news of our lives, there was some good news on this front. In June, there was a historic and landmark court ruling in York which found that refusing to rent to someone because they are on benefits is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010. This set a very important legal precedent. So where does this leave you in terms of a landlord being able to ask for rent in advance?
The amount that you can be asked to put down as a deposit is capped at five weeks rent by the Tenant Fees Act. This piece of legislation also prevents landlords from “frontloading” rent in the way you are being asked to do.
Sadly, Andy confirms that the charity are hearing from “more and more landlords asking for extra months up front.” Given that almost half of renters are just one paycheck away from losing their home, even those in work are unlikely to be able to find this sort of money up front.
“This will often be asked of people who don’t have a guarantor or good references, or tenants who are self-employed,” he explains. “It might also happen to people who receive benefits. Landlords and agents want to know that a tenant can meet the full cost of the rent and pay on time each month.” He notes that if this is being asked of you because you are currently receiving benefits, then it could be discriminatory.
There are other legit ways for landlords to assess your ability to pay. They could carry out tenant referencing with a company that carries out checks for people on low incomes or on benefits. They could also look into rent guarantee insurance. This is what they should be doing, instead of putting extra pressure on you.
It might not feel like it, but the law is actually on your side – I’m just sorry you have to keep fighting. If you think you may be experiencing discriminatory behaviour, it’s worth getting in touch with Shelter’s expert housing advisers here. You can also look at their DSS discrimination advice page and try the Equality Advisory Support service, who can also provide specialist advice on what your options might be.