The following blog post was written by one of our Property Managers, Rizwan Valiji, as part of his Trainee Programme.
What the Property Industry Considers ASB
The Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) refers to examples of Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) as intimidation, harassment, verbal abuse and noise. The first call to action that residents often make in instances of ASB, is getting in touch with their property manager. Of course, while it is logical to involve a managing agent in such instances, the first port of call for a worried resident should always be the police or local authority.
ARMA establishes clearly that managing agents’ powers in such situations are very limited. However, there is arguably a ‘duty of care’ that a property manager owes to the residents. Taking no action and advising residents to contact the police can be problematic. This is especially the case if residents are concerned about serious incidents. This might include drug-taking, drug-dealing and threats, which can sometimes be a commonplace aspect of communal living.
We’ll begin by setting out ARMA’s guidance first. In its general guidance to leaseholders ARMA
“…Your landlord or managing agent will be limited in terms of what they can do to help…”
It is arguable, that while a managing agent should advise a resident to contact the Police in any case of criminal ASB, the manager should also work with the residents to raise awareness at the estate to help reduce or tackle the issue.
As we already know, the Police can only make arrests to put away culprits when they are called, at the time of the criminal event or when an indisputable bit of evidence is presented, linking the act to an individual. The chances of this during a drug-deal, for example, is very slim.
Not only will the ASB continue; The residents will constantly be under the stress of immediate danger, affecting their quality of life.
What Can a Manager Do to Help Tackle Criminal ASB
Outside of Police dealing with the ASB, there are few effective actions a manager can take to help deter or tackle the behavior.
Signs & Notices in the Common Parts.
These may deter individuals intending to continue their ASB at an estate. The logic behind this is demonstrating to the would-be criminals that they are being watched, whether by estate CCTV or an agent monitoring reports. This is, in essence, a warning to the offenders and the first part of giving residents a ‘medium’ to deter ASB. Another benefit of notices is that the manager can clearly point out to owners who the responsible enforcement officers are, so direct reporting can be encouraged.
Working with Police & the Local Authority.
Based on personal experience, this is a positive form of action that a manager can take to help tackle ASB in their portfolio, (where circumstances permit). A manager can streamline a procedure where reports or CCTV footage are sent over to the police in instances of ASB. At the same time, involving the local authority will allow the issue to be tackled from another angle.
The local authority may have the ability to remove culprits that live within the radius of the manger’s troubled block. Strong liaison and evidence-gathering on the part of the manager may speed up the process.
Managers should be aware that this course of action is time-consuming. The nature of the work is non-routine and accordingly the manager should agree any additional costs of carrying out these actions with their client.
ARMA Guidance vs Practical Experience
Although ARMA guidance encourages residents to report instances directly to the police or local authority, sometimes an ASB problem can be so acute that it forces itself on to the managers agenda. If there is a requirement to become involved, my own advice to any struggling manager, would be to ensure they build rapport with the local Police department and local authority. This will enable the manager to build up a support network for larger schemes which require ASB issues to be dealt with in a holistic fashion rather than on a piecemeal basis.
Having implemented this step at a large scheme that I manage, I believe some residents will feel more supported if issues of ASB are dealt with in monthly newsletters. A newsletter gives managers an opportunity to demonstrate to residents that their voices are being heard. Residents suffering from issues will realize they are not alone in the and people can feel encouraged to come forward to report ASB issues. Newsletters also provide the Police and local authority a section of their own to keep residents updated.
The Power of a Manager Working with Residents
If residents support the manager by heeding their advice, inroads can be made into reducing ASB significantly.
Opening its doors to residents in 1972, Trellick Tower, located in Kensal Town (West London) became known as a ‘no-go’ zone in the late 70’s. Locals would avoid the building due to it’s high level of ASB. Towards the late 80’s, the residents came together to put an end to the ASB. They formed a Residents Association and employed a concierge. The residents’ association encouraged resident-engagement and forged a network, encompassing building management, police and local authority.
The culture of silence about ASB issues onsite was broken. Residents began reporting issues directly to decision makers, and this was supported by both onsite and offsite management. A network was built between all interested parties which dramatically reduced ASB statistics and improved relations between tenants and the police.
The importance of these actions by the residents at the time turned the estate around, from what had become known as locally a ‘hell hole’ to a much more desirable place to live. Trellick Tower is now a Grade II listed building and has become an iconic landmark of West London.
- In some cases, it pays for Managers to take a more flexible approach to ASB, going beyond what would be considered typical block management
- It is crucial for a manager to have the support of residents at an estate to help prevent ASB.
- A little care goes a long way in client/manager relationship.