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Neighbour Disputes and Anti-Social Behaviour

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					            Neighbour Disputes and Anti-Social Behaviour

      What is anti-social behaviour?

There are wide ranges of issues, which can be classed as either neighbour
disputes or anti-social behaviour. These can include activities such as excessive
noise, vandalism, unkept gardens, stairs/closes not cleaned, litter and nuisance
pets.

More serious forms of anti-social behaviour include racial and other harassment,
threatened or actual violence, malicious damage, drug dealing, house breaking and
theft.

      What should I do if I have a complaint about a neighbour?

Many neighbour disputes can be resolved just by talking with your neighbour. It
may be that they are unaware of the nuisance they are causing and often a
friendly word can be enough to sort matters out. For example a neighbour may
put their washing machine on early in the morning but be unaware this disturbs
you. A friendly word to request their washing machine is not put on until later in
the morning may be all it takes to sort the problem out. Talking with your
neighbour may also help you both understand each other’s lifestyles.

      What if I feel that I cannot approach my neighbour?

In these circumstances you should contact your Housing Officer by visiting the
office in person or by phone. Your Housing Officer will offer advice and
recommend an appropriate course of action.

      Does my complaint have to be in writing?

No, we will act on any verbal complaints received. However your Housing Officer
will supply you with an incident diary as ongoing disputes may involve details of
times, dates, the involvement of Police and other witnesses. So it is important
that you keep a record of these. Incident Diary’s and letters help build up a case
should legal action be necessary, as a sheriff will ask for a detailed written
account of the events.

Abertay will accept and record anonymous complaints. However staff will use
their discretion and judgement in deciding whether anonymous information
warrants further investigation.
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       How will I know my complaint is being dealt with?

 Your Housing Officer will contact you to advise on the appropriate action to
be taken and the likely timescale for investigation.

      In what circumstances can we as landlord get involved?

Every tenant has a tenancy agreement, which provides legal protection. Only when
our tenancy conditions are broken can we intervene. This means we can take legal
action in serious cases such as, persistent playing of loud music at unsociable hours
(where the Police are involved and pressing charges), the property is being used for
immoral or criminal activity, recurring violence within the property or in the near
vicinity.

This means that we cannot take action in cases like, neighbours having a war of
words, neighbours children fighting or bulling other children at home or at school,
or a clash of lifestyles when neighbours day-to-day activities are not compatible.
In these cases we will always try to talk to both parties to see if an agreement can
be reached, however if an agreement is not kept we have no legal means of
enforcing it. We depend on tenants working together to reach reasonable
arrangements, which enable neighbours to live comfortably together.

      New powers for dealing with Anti-Social Behaviour.

Behaving anti-socially or displaying anti-social conduct (which includes speech) is
defined as that “which is likely to cause alarm or distress to one or more persons
not of the same household.” Abertay may apply and obtain an ASBO (Anti-Social
Behaviour Order) against tenants who engage in anti-social behaviour. An
application for an ASBO can be made to the Sheriff Court on a person (over 16)
acting in an anti-social manner. Penalties for breaching an ASBO include up to 6
months’ imprisonment or a fine or both and on conviction on indictment, up to five
years’ imprisonment or a fine or both. When an ASBO is granted Abertay could
convert the tenant’s tenancy to a short Scottish secure tenancy (SSST). Your
rights under the SSST are limited; there is no right to buy, there is no provision
for succession and security of tenure is limited.

      What action can Abertay take?

If your complaint is proven then the neighbour you complained about will be visited
by a Housing Officer and given a verbal warning.



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In serious disputes the Police will be involved and we can start to build a legal case
for court action. This will involve you and other neighbours keeping a detailed log of
the disturbances including dates and times the incidents occurred. Abertay do not
have any legal powers to evict tenants who are behaving anti-socially, it is the
Sheriff who makes that decision. The Sheriff has to be convinced based on the
evidence you, your neighbours, the Police and other agencies provide. This is why it
is important that all information is recorded and confirmed by the Police or others.

      How do I know what steps you have taken to solve the problems?

We will let you know what action we have taken and although the content of our
discussion with your neighbour remains confidential we will let you know the
outcome.

All complaints are recorded and feedback forms are issued to the complainant.
This helps Abertay to ensure a good service is provided.

      What if the dispute is serious and ends up in court?

You will be asked to appear personally to tell the Sheriff what you have witnessed.
If there are other witnesses, they may also be asked to give evidence in court. The
case has more impact if witnesses can appear and give evidence and our Solicitor
will help you prepare for this. Witness support can also be provided to help you, if
you feel you need this.

      What if I do not wish to go to court?

In serious cases we may use professional witnesses to appear in court and give
evidence. You will need to supply a statement giving your account of what happened.
It is important to have sufficient evidence, as the sheriff needs to be convinced
that it is reasonable to grant a decree for eviction, so we need accurate
incident diary reports and Police reports that agree with this. It is
therefore essential that you call the Police every time you are experiencing
anti-social behaviour.

      How long can it take to resolve a dispute?

This depends on how your neighbour reacts to our discussions and any warnings. In
cases where neighbours comply, disputes are likely to be resolved over a short
period of time. But, if it goes to court it could take as long as a year to resolve.




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      Are there any other ways in which neighbours disputes can be resolved?

Environmental Health Department

Dundee City Council’s environmental health department has the power to investigate
reports of nuisance. This includes the cleanliness of communal areas such as stairs
and bin areas, dumping of rubbish, loud music and noisy parties. If investigations
prove that the law has been broken then the person responsible for the nuisance,
will be served with a Notice by the courts to stop. If they fail to do so they will be
fined.

The Police

Since 1st December 1998 it is an offence to play instruments or use a hi-fi in a
way that gives another person reasonable cause for annoyance. If the person has
been asked by the Police to stop the annoyance twice in 24 hours or 4 times in a
month the Police can enter the property and remove the equipment.

If the Police visit your home regarding a neighbour complaint, make sure you
write down the date and time they called. You should also note the Police
Officer’s number, which is attached to his coat at his shoulder. This will help
with any enquires you make to them regarding the incident.

Mediation

Dundee Community Mediation can help people involved in a dispute reach an
agreement which everyone can live with. This keeps problems from getting out of
hand. Mediators are independent and neutral people who will listen to both sides
and help you find common ground. Mediation is confidential and is free.
Mediation concentrates on practical solutions for the future, even if there is a
history of serious disagreements. For further information contact: 459252
email: info@dundee.sacro.org.uk.



                          Abertay Housing Association
                               147 Fintry Drive
                               Dundee DD4 9HE
             Tel:01382 903545 Email:queries@abertayha.demon.co.uk




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