SHORT TENURE TENANTS & RESOLVING ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR PROBLEMS:
A Reader's Personal Experience
A recent e-mail to the NAG website highlighted the problems arising from, in this instance, the anti-social behaviour of a student tenant.
Apart from some superficial editing, this account is very much the author's personal report of their experience. ...
I've had a terrible experience this last year [2019-2020] with a student neighbour on a music course at NTU. Not that I would normally look into a neighbour's windows but last September I had to do so when I wanted to see where the loud music was coming from, and you could clearly see the DJ equipment and commercial loud speakers. How did I know he was a music student? The letting agent told me so and that the equipment was for his studies. Surrounding his flat were at least ten other flats, and mine was the furthest away. But the extra distance didn't stop me noticing the deep bass noise of his commercial speakers which those Noise Apps never seem to pick up. The typically weekly schedule was three night-time parties (Thursdays and weekends were particularly bad anytime between 10.00 pm to 5.00 am) plus several afternoon practice sessions.
The management company at my block are not really set up to deal with the anti-social behaviour of short tenure students which left me wondering how many other complaints must go unresolved when these rogue students live in residential blocks. I know for fact my 70 year old neighbour also complained but sadly by November we had both got nowhere.
My next step was to search for the owners name on Land Registry, but not everyone knows of this facility. I then googled her and then she passed us on to her letting agent ***** (though I now refer to them as **** for the way they treated me). They were awful ... always polite but yet dismissive, obstructive, then unresponsive and finally in March blatantly lying to me when I had it out with the office manager. They had all the hall marks of a rogue letting agent despite their professional looking shop window.
The owner of the flat was actually very sympathetic and a very nice lady who I suspect must just be using the rental income as a pension, as the property was listed on Land Registry as not having a mortgage. She was very helpful and immediately instructed them to issue a Section 8 notice but they refused to do so with all manner of excuses. We provided plenty of time and date stamped videos which they finally rejected. I do wish they would have told me that initially then I wouldn't have gone to all the effort of going out in the dark into rain at 2.00 am to capture video footage. Our local policeman since confirmed that video is an acceptable form of evidence if a PCSO isn't able to attend but I'd still like to see that assurance in writing as it conflicts with an article I read which stated that only PCSOs in attendance are valid witnesses, and there's little chance of that happening at 3.00 am on a Tuesday morning!
Having spoken to the Management company a few days ago they informed me that they are looking into providing the local PCSOs with fobs so they can get into our block (via three different entrances). On reflection no wonder the Police never turned up much if they generally struggle to get in to blocks. As I can't access the entrance of the noisy tenant I asked ask how the PCSO planned to get in and he just said they would randomly buzz other flats (at 3.00 am in the morning!) or use a key code (but we don't have one).
By mid March Lock-down had started and the letting agent closed so that was the end of that. Our DJ student neighbour was then regularly hosting 'COVID-19 Exchange Parties', just see the posters that were pinned up and left in our lobby. This was at a time when we were petrified about accidentally touching hand rails and lift buttons with all these student guests coming into our block. Plenty of students have stayed on in Nottingham during lockdown it seems. The sort of litter that is left strewn across the streets of Lenton is replicated in our corridors and lobbies..smashed glass bottles, discarded fast food boxes, sick on the carpet, even blood smears on the walls! Several times we called the police on 101 and obtained incident numbers but nobody turned up to break up the parties.
I have since come to the conclusion that as 99.9% of students move out at the end of their annual contracts I believe that rogue letting agents and landlords see little point in taking the steps to evict, or threat to evict by way of a Section 8 notice, even where it is undeniably warranted. But who can blame them? They know all to well that, despite what you read in the paper, tenants can't just be kicked out and the timescales for following the statutory process for eviction includes a lengthy period of evidence gathering (2-3 months?) followed by an expensive £5000 court process (5-6 months) and a month's wait for a bailiff. They must think why bother when the tenant will leave at the end of academic year. If an eviction took place they would be then left with the unthinkable scenario of having a void period of 1-3 months before the next academic year. Whereas someone reasonably minded might consider eviction and then quickly relet the flat to a non-student this is simply an unpalatable idea to the rogue letting agent who sees non-students as far less profitable. It's far easier for the rogue agent just to ride out the rest of the academic year with the rogue tenant in-situ.
Thankfully the situation has improved. As expected 'DJ', as we called him, finally moved out in July and our block is peaceful once again. We hope this September that ALL our new student tenants at **** will respect the block policy of no loud noise between 11.00 pm and 7.00 am. I hope nobody else living in residential blocks (or houses for that matter) has to experience something like this in their neighbourhood. Unfortunately though I think it's not an uncommon experience across the city centre and the 'Studentified' areas of Nottingham.
My impression is that much ASB must go unreported, or cases get lost in the system, and therefore is absent from the statistics. I think the evidence gathering process could do with an update...in this day and age the thought of Environmental Health having to install sound recording equipment for months on end seems antiquated when neighbours can, using their smartphones, collectively film the anti-social behaviour and post it to Facebook in HD resolution and crisp audio. I hope and am optimistic that councils will start to embrace these new technologies, along with the justice system who also need to update what they consider reasonable evidence. By improving the Reporting software and agreeing to work towards a speedier process there does appear to be a good chance that councils will once for for all finally be able to combat the anti-social behaviour of short term student tenants, helping to create quieter and cleaner neighbourhoods.