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What can I do If my neighbours are not social distancing?

Since the government imposed ‘lockdown’ on Monday 23rd March 2020, the entire country has been subject to the strictest constraints on our activities ever to occur in peacetime, with people instructed to stay at home and only leave their homes in order to shop for necessities, to exercise, for medical reasons and to provide care for a person in need, and to travel to and from work where the person is unable to work from home.

At the same time, The Coronavirus Act 2020 was being rushed through parliament and received Royal Assent on 25th March 2020. This contains widespread powers to enable public bodies to take the necessary steps to respond to the pandemic and to enforce these controls being placed on us all.

On 26th March 2020 the government also brought into force regulations, under the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984 to enable the enforcement of the constraints such as the requirement to stay at home.

Since the lockdown, incidents of anti-social behaviour across the country have increased with reports of people flouting the social distancing rules. This has resulted in the police and social landlords being required to take action to enforce the regulations.

Police have the power to impose fixed penalty notices for people breaching the regulations by visiting another property or by gathering in a public place.

In extreme cases where there has been repeat offending with parties taking place in breach of Covid 19 regulations, the police have applied for closure orders effectively closing down the property for a period of 3 months.

Despite the powers held by the police, social landlords are receiving a high level of reports from their tenants regarding the behaviour of other tenants in not complying with the social distancing requirements by having visitors to their home or by congregating in the communal areas. In some cases the reports have been more worrying as they have involved aggressive or threatening behaviour to other tenants and actions such as spitting or urinating in a communal area.

Many residents have been very concerned by the effect of this on the health of their families, particularly those with elderly or vulnerable members or those that are keyworkers, and want to know what can be done about it.

Most social landlords have telephone or e-mail contact details readily available on their website to enable reports. Many also have online reporting available.

Most landlords will initially attempt to tackle such problems with a warning letter to the tenant in question, reminding them of the social distancing requirements and asking them to refrain from any activities that breach the requirements.

If this fails and the tenant in question continues to breach the requirements, social landlords can apply for an injunction under the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, requiring the tenant to refrain from behaving in a way that breaches the social distancing requirements. This can include conditions that prevent the tenant from having any visitors to their home, from congregating in any communal areas such as stairwells or landings, or congregating in the communal green spaces.

Where the behaviour complained of is more serious, such as aggressive behaviour, spitting in communal areas and so on, it is possible to ask for a power of arrest to be attached to the injunction. This means that, if the tenant in question breaches the injunction, they can be arrested by the police and taken before a Judge for sentencing. The possible sentence can range from a fine to a period of imprisonment.

While many proceedings have been stayed by the courts due to Covid 19, urgent injunctions such as these are an example of the type of cases that courts are still prioritising and dealing with. Applications can be made by e-mail and hearings can be done by telephone, making the process quicker and easier.

No-one should be made to feel threatened or unsafe during these difficult times. If you are worried about any of these issues, check our website or call our experts on 0330 822 3451 to see how we can help.