Opinion: The rise of demotion orders
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Legal
By Orbit Heart of England
“Night-time was the hardest. It was constant noise. Loud music, parties, doors slamming, fights in the street. At times, it felt like I was living in an episode of ‘Shameless’.”
Anti-social behaviour can be soul destroying, having a devastating effect on communities and the lives of millions of people who have to live with it. For Shanna-Kaye*, the ASB started not long after she had moved into her new Orbit Heart of England home in Rugby.
“I spoke to my neighbour and they listened to me for a while. But then it got worse. At one point, I had to move out with my children and sleep elsewhere. It affected my job because friends of the neighbour came into work and verbally abused me. I was studying for a Level 2 Business Administration NVQ and it was difficult to work on it, day or night. The children couldn’t play outside because of the swearing. It was hard.”
When the ASB escalated, Shanna-Kaye contacted her community housing officer, Paula Collett. Paula explained the procedures that had to be observed and the importance of keeping a diary of incidents.
“I was getting calls on a daily basis from other neighbours,” explained Paula, “They all knew there was a problem but they were reluctant to make official complaints for fear of reprisals. Shanna-Kaye was the only one in a street of about 22 properties to do anything about it.”
At first, Shanna-Kaye was dismayed that the process would take time, “I was angry because I just wanted someone to do something. It was frustrating to be told ‘Keep a diary’. But I wrote everything down, every incident and I took photos. I understood I needed to keep records, almost telling a story of what was happening to me on a daily basis.”
Paula worked closely in partnership with the police community safety wardens, family intervention and the environmental health officers. As a result, a noise abatement notice was served and Paula also served a notice to seek possession on the neighbour. This was only possible by using evidence collected by Shanna-Kaye in her diary.
But the noise didn’t stop so Paula went to court. “I spoke to the neighbour and explained that, as we had got other professionals involved and as the family were engaging, we would on this occasion ask for a demotion of tenancy rather than possession. The last thing they needed was to lose their home. However, their behaviour and daily conduct was totally unacceptable. This was the most appropriate course of action to take.”
It was the first demotion that Paula had done and, the judge admitted, the first he had done. “From the judge’s comments in court, I think we would easily have been granted possession. But the actual outcome has been very positive for everyone.
“I never wanted them to lose their home. I just wanted the noise to stop,” said Shanna-Kaye, “Since then, they’ve written me a letter apologising for their behaviour and thanking me for helping get their life back on track.
“My message to others? I’d say stick with it. The perpetrators think they can intimidate you but it backfires on them. It is hard. There are ups and downs but it’s worth it in the end.”
Orbit manages around 16,500 properties across the Midlands including affordable homes for rent, leasehold and homeownership properties, and sheltered and supported housing.