'There are powers for local authorities, registered social landlords and private landlords to remove nuisance tenants, but we recognise that these cases must be resolved quickly,' said government minister David Lock. 'We are therefore determined to ensure that these powers lead to quick and effective justice.'
'We will therefore be amending the rules of court on housing cases, so that hearings for possession cases will take place within 8 weeks of the original claim being issued.
'We recognise that in cases of anti-social behaviour this period may still be too long, and so practice directions accompanying the new rules will allow judges to
speed up cases where violence or damage has occurred or been threatened - with any disputes being resolved at an early hearing.'
Mr Lock announced the proposal during a visit to the large Bulwell estate in Nottingham, where the local city council has been tackling anti social behaviour and pioneering the use of anti-social behaviour orders on tenants and others who make life a misery for the local community.
In the period between the claims being brought and the case coming before the courts, landlords can seek an injunction to prevent further breaches of the tenancy agreement.
'We have worked closely with the DETR, the home office, the Local Government Association and local authorities such as Nottingham on this,' said Mr Lock. 'We have a common position. Anti-social behaviour is unacceptable.
'These new rules will mean that landlords will be able swiftly to evict anyone breaching their tenancy agreement by causing a real nuisance or engaging in anti-social behaviour. There is no point in having rules against anti-social behaviour unless there is a facility for the courts to quickly and effectively enforce them.
'Existing rules already allow for time scales to be shortened where appropriate and the Government is keen that local authorities and other landlords are aware of this. The new housing civil procedure rules are designed to simplify and streamline proceedings, so claims will be dealt with more speedily.
'The needs of all parties - landlord, the defendant and other residents, who may be directly affected, will be addressed in the rules. The new rules of court on housing cases will be introduced across the country in October this year.'
1. A statutory instrument (numbered: 2001 no. 256 (L.7)) was published on 13 February 2001 detailing new rules, approved by the Lord Chancellor, for dealing with Housing and Land claims.
The new rules, which come into force on 15th October 2001, will clarify the complex areas of procedure relating to Possession and to Landlord and Tenant law and bring them within the body of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) as Parts 55 and 56. The CPR resulted from Lord Justice Woolf's review of thecivil justice system in England and Wales, which resulted in his report 'Access to Justice' in 1996.
2. The Civil Procedure Rules, which were introduced in April 1999, are part of an ongoing process of reform to the civil justice system which are aimed at reducing cost and delay, whilst ensuring that claims are dealt with fairly.
3. Anti-social behaviour orders are community based orders, similar to injunctions, which can be applied for by local authorities and police forces. They can be made against those whose behaviour causes alarm, distress or harassment to others. A breach of an anti-social behaviour order is a criminal offence.
The home office, working with DETR and the Local Government Association, produced a tool kit for crime and disorder partnerships to provide guidance on tackling anti-social behaviour.
4. Witness intimidation can be a problem for landlords seeking to evict nuisance tenants, as neighbours are unwilling to give evidence despite being the ones most adversely affected.
The Criminal Justice and Police Bill, currently before Parliament, includes measures to combat intimidation in civil cases. [Intimidating witnesses in criminal cases is already an offence under Section 51 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994].