Tuesday, November 14, 2006

John Reid's plans to evict homeowners

The latest brainwave from the Government in the crackdown on anti-social behaviour:

Homeowners could be evicted from their houses for yobbish behaviour under plans to punish "neighbours from hell". Home Secretary John Reid announced today that he would be giving police and local authorities the power to impose "closure orders" on any property where there is serious anti-social behaviour.

I'm not too sure I agree with arbitrarily depriving people of the right to use their property. And yes, I said arbitrarily. If (and this is a very big if) property rights must be interfered with in this manner, I would like to see this spelt out very clearly in legislation, together with the very narrow circumstances in which it should be applied. That is not something I am confident that this Government can do, given its proven ineptitude at legislative drafting. If anyone should be deprived of their property, I would expect it to be as a result of a court order, and nothing less. These are the only qualifications I can even countenance. My every instinct is against such an exercise of power. Seizing the property of criminals in an attempt to recover ill-gotten gains is one thing, seizing the home of a yob and his family for keeping the neighbourhood up all night is something else altogether.

The authorities currently have power to evict tenants and board up 'crack houses'. Extending these powers to nuisance neighbours and the like is a step too far. For one thing, boarded up houses in a neighbourhood give the appearance of neglect, and what better way to attract crime to an area?

There is a world of difference between evicting a tenant and seizing a homeowner's property. In the case of the former, a tenancy agreement would have set out the tenant's obligations, the breach of which would entitle the landlord to evict. Where the local authority is the landlord, it is all in order for them to evict a yobbish tenant. However, I cannot see anything that can justify seizing a homeowner's property under these circumstances. Is he still liable for the mortgage during his period of banishment, I wonder?

Under the plans, the authorities, in their magnanimity, will allow the exiled homeowner to return after three months if they undertake to behave themselves. What next? A duty on banks to check the status of potential buyers, and not to give mortgages to people who have been issued ASBOs?

One other question. Where does the Government intend to put all these troublemakers once they have been evicted? They will most likely end up in a hostel somewhere with other yobs and low-level criminals who have been similarly evicted from their dwellings, thereby concentrating the problem in one area. Pity the poor souls who live in such environs.

Anti-social behaviour is not 'tackled' by moving the perpetrators from one part of town to another. That would simply move the problem around without solving it. I would advise a rethink of these plans.
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Blogger superstar said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:48 PM  
Anonymous Ellee said...

I wrote once about a system in America where "neighbourhood courts" are heard to deal with nusisance neighbourhood issues. The court sits in the local area, even in a mobile unit, and listens to complaints about noisy dogs, unkept gardens, as well as rowdyness and yobbish behaviour. It seems a good idea to me

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect this is mostly Labour leadership battle noise. Let's see who can sound the most populist..

At any rate, their willingness to play fast and lose with individual rights is pretty unnerving.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous MoragTheMindbender said...

There is a programme in Scotland where they corral the miscreant neighbours. It has been going for over ten years and I have spoken to someone who has reported on it for the entire time - apparently it works. It sounds unpalatable to us but for the people who suffer in silence from the behaviour of these (what does one call them really). Also I suspect that if we were to dig under the surface we would find the numbers of mortgage-payers this would apply to would be low to non-existent..............

6:50 PM  
Blogger Bel said...

MoragtheMindbender, are you implying that homeowners cannot be yobs? Perhaps not but they (ie homeowners) are over-represented in the murder and arson stakes, I feel. Are there particular 'activities' that a homeowner may not carry out? Murder, maybe, but not yobbishness :)

Seriously though, I see what you mean, but I would always hesitate before interfering with property rights. That is the so-called 'thin end of the wedge'. Can you imagine how this law may be extended in future? Once we start compromising property rights in this way, you can expect an unscrupulous government to exploit that.

Deal with the yobs another way.

7:07 PM  
Blogger John East said...

We imagine that our possessions, including our money and our property, belong to us, but in reality everything that we think we own is only nominally ours as long as we keep our heads down, and play by the rules. And even then, the government can arbritarily decide to approprate
our belongings if they decide that it is in the interest of society.

I've certainly no sympathy for neighbours from hell, but there must be a better way.

How about arresting them and throwing them into jail? Silly me, we only do this to those who can't afford to pay their property taxes.

9:21 PM  

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