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Southwark sends warning letters to tenants about rioting charges

Published Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Dozens of letters have been sent to tenants in Southwark warning them that they may face eviction if they or members of their household are convicted of offences related to the riots in London.

Southwark Council has written to 35 tenants across the borough where they or members of their household have been charged with criminal conduct following the recent disorder

The council today stressed that tenants or members of their household who are found guilty of offences related to rioting risked eviction, under grounds set out under the Housing Acts, including breaching their tenancy agreement. 

Under the terms of agreement, all tenants and their household members are forbidden from causing nuisance, property damage and anti-social or criminal activities. Breaches of the agreement render them liable to eviction. The Housing Act also sets out grounds for eviction due tenancy breaches, nuisance, anti-social and criminal behaviour. 

The letter from Gerri Scott, Southwark's Strategic Director of Housing Services, states: 

"The council has been advised that you, or a member of your household residing at this address, has been charged with criminal conduct associated with the recent disorder in London.

"I am writing to advise you that, under the Housing Acts and the conditions of your tenancy, if you or a member of your household are convicted of a criminal offence the council has the power to ask the court to evict you from your home. Therefore your tenancy may be at risk. 

"The council is considering what action to take and is working with the police and other agencies to ensure we have all the necessary information to decide whether to take legal action against you." 

Councillor Ian Wingfield, Southwark's Cabinet Member for Housing, said:  

"The vast majority of our social housing tenants are hard working and law abiding people who respect their neighbours and local communities.  

"Unfortunately, a minority were involved in the riots and inexcusable acts of violence and looting on our streets.  

"We want to send a clear message to these individuals that if they are convicted there are serious consequences to their actions which for some could result in their eventual eviction.  

"This is not a decision we take lightly, but we really need to send a message in no uncertain terms."  

The council said that any application to evict would be considered on a case by case basis with advice from the police and other agencies before being heard by a county court judge. 

Council officers have started carrying out face to face visits to all those identified as part of this process and to make sure that any possible enforcement action, if applied at all, is proportionate. 

Where vulnerable or very young people were concerned, other sanctions such as ASBOs, and acceptable behaviour contracts may be more appropriate. The council is also considering using "demoted tenancy" powers that may be more appropriate. A demoted tenancy stops a tenancy being secure for an initial period of 12 months. If tenants fail to comply with the terms of a demoted tenancy, the council can then apply to the court for an order to evict. 

Councillor Wingfield said:  

"It's absolutely right that people should go through the due process of the courts and where necessary and appropriate we will seek to evict those found guilty of rioting.  

"We do though have a range of powers at our disposal and in some cases, for example when dealing with a very young people, it may be more sensible to use an ASBO or acceptable behaviour contract instead." 

Over 120 businesses in Southwark fell victim to last week's widespread destruction and theft with The Walworth Road and Rye Lane in Peckham particularly badly hit. 

The council has offered riot-hit businesses temporary rate relief to compensate for lost trade and a slice of a £100,000 emergency recovery fund to help them get back on their feet.  

Media requesting more information should contact Darell Carey at Southwark council's press office on 0207 525 3374.

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