Written Answers. - Local Authority Powers.

Austin Currie

Question:

422 Mr. Currie asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if he has satisfied himself that local authorities have sufficient powers to prevent anti-social behaviour in council estates; if such powers include those who have bought or are in the process of buying their council house; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7714/01]

Management of their housing estates, including dealing with anti-social behaviour, is a matter for individual local authorities who have been encouraged by my Department to use the statutory powers available to them where appropriate.

In the first instance the tenancy agreement, which is the legal basis of the relationship between the local authority and its tenants, will generally contain provisions in relation to the type of behaviour that is acceptable, and that which is not. The local authority is empowered under section 62 of the Housing Act, 1966, to initiate proceedings to secure an eviction where a tenant has breached the conditions of the tenancy agreement.

In addition, the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1997, provides for a range of measures to assist local authorities in addressing problems arising on their estates from drug dealing and serious anti-social behaviour. It forms a part of a wider range of measures undertaken by Government to deal with the issue of drugs and related crime.

One of the main provisions of the 1997 Act enables a local authority tenant, or the authority itself in certain circumstances, to apply for an excluding order against a person who is believed to be engaging in anti-social behaviour. The authority may seek such an order only after consul tation with the tenant and the relevant health board.
The effect of an excluding order, if granted, is to exclude the person to whom it relates from the local authority dwelling and, at the discretion of the court, from any other specified dwelling or housing estate. This procedure allows for a targeted response to the problem of anti-social behaviour by an individual member of a household, without the need to remove the entire household.
Section 20 of the Act also enables the Garda, on notification by the housing authority, to direct people squatting in local authority accommodation and engaged in anti-social activity to leave the accommodation. This has proved to be an effective means of dealing with anti-social behaviour where squatting is involved.
Information received in my Department from local authorities indicates that in 1999, excluding orders were sought in five cases, three of which were sought by tenants and two by local authorities. In the same period, illegal occupiers were removed from local authority dwellings in 105 cases.
Other important provisions in the 1997 Act include: powers for the local authority to refuse to let or sell a dwelling where the local authority considers that a person is or has been engaged in anti-social behaviour or that it would not be in the interest of good estate management; discretion is given to health boards to refuse supplementary welfare assistance for private housing accommodation to persons who have been evicted from or refused local authority housing on grounds of anti-social behaviour; provision for exchange of information between local authorities, voluntary housing bodies, health boards and other relevant organisations; provision that Courts may accept statements by gardaí, housing authority or health boards officials as evidence of anti-social behaviour in proceedings for repossession under section 62 of the Housing Act, 1966, or excluding orders under the 1997 Act, where the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for doing so and that other possible witnesses would be prevented from giving evidence due to intimidation.
Local authority tenants who purchase their homes under the tenant purchase scheme cease to be tenants of the local authority and are in effect private home owners who are subject to the normal legal code in relation to anti-social behaviour. I am advised that provisions which may be applied by local authorities in respect of houses of which they are the owner cannot be applied in respect of private houses, regardless of whether acquired through tenant purchase arrangements.