Posted: Thu 29th Feb 2024

Wrexham Council struggling to evict “neighbours from hell” under new housing law

Wrexham.com for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area

Wrexham Council is struggling to evict “neighbours from hell” due to legislation aimed at reducing homelessness, councillors have been told.

A new housing law was introduced by the Welsh Government in December 2022 designed to give renters greater protection from being evicted by their landlords.

Officials from the local authority said they are now under strict instructions not to evict tenants unless absolutely necessary, particularly if residents are facing financial difficulties.

However, politicians in Wrexham have hit out at the situation after claiming it is causing problems in communities as the council struggles to remove nuisance tenants.

The issue was raised at a meeting of Wrexham’s homes and environment scrutiny committee after a question was posed over the current rate of evictions in the county borough.

Cllr Trevor Bates, who represents the Ceiriog Valley, said: “We talk about bad behaviour and tenants misbehaving but how many do we actually evict during the year?

“I think most people have the neighbour from hell within their ward. Is that a widespread issue or is it just the odd one or two?”
Councillors were meeting to discuss proposed revisions to the council’s housing allocations policy.

The document details how residents who display unacceptable behaviour can potentially be excluded from the housing register or given a lower priority.

Speaking about eviction numbers, the authority’s chief housing officer Julie Francis said the latest figures would be provided in the near future and highlighted challenges in removing anti-social tenants.

She said: “In terms of anti-social behaviour, we’ve currently got a directive from the Welsh Government that we absolutely need to try everything necessary before we evict anybody into homelessness.

“For anybody who’s in financial debt, we’ve got guidance where we’re not to evict them into homelessness because of the cost of living.

“We have got an exclusion for severe anti-social behaviour, but we also have to demonstrate to the court that it is severe and that there’s no other remedy that we can find before we evict them.

“It may be that we give them an opportunity to go into the private sector and do some behavioural work with them, so they change the way that they behave.”

However, she added: “If they’re in serious organised criminal gangs or involved in severe drug dealing, you’re not really going to get much change in behaviour.

“They can be scourge on our communities, but they do take a long time to evict.”

In response, Cllr Bates said he was concerned about the extra cost and officer time currently involved in trying to secure evictions.

Hermitage councillor Graham Rogers also voiced his frustration over the knock-on effect for other residents.

He said: “We should be living in the real world, but from what Julie’s described, it’s not helping them as officers.

“It’s not helping us as councillors either when you’ve got an old dear who’s say 75 years of age and lived in the community all of their lives.

“Why should they be troubled and disturbed? Sorry, but to me it’s a nonsense.”

Committee chair Paul Pemberton said the legislation was “sending out the wrong message” to tenants who misbehave.

Ms Francis said the problem had been added to as judges responsible for issuing eviction orders were also reluctant to do so.

She told last Wednesday’s (February 21, 2024) meeting: “It’s ultimately up to the judge whether they do evict them or not.

“Quite often they don’t, and they give an order to improve their behaviour or stay.

“That means that the community goes for another six months putting up with that anti-social behaviour, which can be frustrating for everybody.

“It’s not the council that actually evicts people, it’s the court, and with the cost of living and the national homelessness situation, they are loathe to put people out onto the streets.”

Councillors voted in favour of writing to the Welsh Government to highlight the issue at the end of the debate.

By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter



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