Get-tough calls over nuisance tenants

ONE WARNING ENOUGH ... says Coun Alan Kerr.
ONE WARNING ENOUGH ... says Coun Alan Kerr.

A GET-tough policy for nightmare neighbours has been demanded by councillors in South Tyneside.

There have been calls to fast-track the eviction process, and even prevent known troublemakers from securing tenancies.

The demands came this week at a meeting of Hebburn community area forum, where the issue sparked a heated debate.

Coun Jim Sewell, the Mayor of South Tyneside, said: “I can’t understand why we are getting these anti-social tenants. The poor people around them are living a nightmare.

“They should not be allowed a property in the first place.”

Coun Alan Kerr, the deputy council leader, believes officials have “got the balance all wrong” when it comes to collecting evidence and tackling nightmare neighbours.

He said: “When 20 to 30 people are complaining about a neighbour, how much more evidence do they need?

“I can’t understand why it’s taking so long for these cases.

“They get three letters and three warnings – one should be enough. These people create mayhem.”

South Tyneside Council area team leader Phil Render admitted the legal and administrative process of dealing with anti-social neighbours could be “tortuous”.

And Neighbourhood Inspector Ian King said: “Yes, it is a laborious process, as Coun Kerr says, and they can often be just moved to another part of the borough.”

Coun John Hodgson asked if local housing and council officials were “restricted by statute” from taking more robust action to deal with nightmare neighbours.

Mr Render said authorities had to ensure their cases against anti-social tenants were “watertight” before proceeding.

But Coun Hodgson added: “Sometimes, you cannot get a watertight case. In the meantime, people are living next to these menaces, while the council says it wants a water-tight case.”

Coun Nancy Maxwell says such cases can prove “costly” for local councils, particularly when children are involved, but asked for the warning letters system to be speeded up.

South Tyneside Homes housing services manager, Eric Crammon, said: “South Tyneside Homes deals with low-level, anti-social behaviour by talking to families and offering support. The bottom line is that we have to be very certain of the circumstances.

“Eviction is the last step, and we want to prevent that.”