Sandridge couple’s relief at eviction of the ‘neighbour from hell’

St Albans City & District Council

St Albans City & District Council - Credit: Archant

A COUPLE plagued for eight years by a “neighbour from hell” have spoken of their relief that a woman has finally been given the boot from her council-owned property.

The residents of St Leonards Crescent, Sandridge, who asked not to be named, say they have put up with extreme anti-social behaviour since the tenant moved in including loud music, fires started from burning rubbish and intimidation.

To escape the misery they said one neighbour living in the area was forced to move out of her house, and others were prescribed medication to deal with the stress and sleepless nights the situation caused.

But last month the pair were freed from their “absolute nightmare” as an application to evict the tenant was accepted by a court.

Describing when the troubles started, the homeowner explained: “I remember the first time she moved in we were coming back from the pub and we could hear the music coming out and I just knew then we were in for real problems.

“In the last three years it [anti-social behaviour] has got progressively worse and there are lots of neighbours who have had huge issues.”

She continued: “One day I was at home working in the lounge and my neighbour knocked on the door and said ‘Are you alright’ because there were flames in the neighbour’s back garden as her son had been allowed to burn some chairs and sofas.

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“The acrid smoke meant we could not breathe in our house for days on end.”

St Albans district council first took legal action to evict the tenant in June 2011 based on a number of breaches of her tenancy agreement.

While a possession order was obtained at the first hearing, the woman made a series of applications to suspend the eviction warrants and a court gave her several chances to comply with her tenancy.

According to one of the victims the problems failed to ease and they recalled one night when the tenant’s house was raided by police.

She said: “We were not actually home but we had friends in the house and at 4am the whole house was surrounded by armed police.

“It made me feel absolutely sick. My friends had to endure the fear of not being able to put the light on in our house because of what was going on outside.”

She maintained the long process of waiting for the tenant to be evicted had caused residents further stress which is why she supports the new strategy of reviewing new tenancies every five years.

The long-suffering neighbour said: “The council have been absolutely fantastic but it seems there are so many hurdles they have had to go through to get to the stage of evicting someone.

“Because this tenant had a life-long tenancy it felt to us the council was powerless. I think people think if they have life-long tenancies then they are protected.”

The introduction of flexible tenancies, which would be issued for a fixed period and renewed subject to tenants keeping within their contract, was agreed this week by the council’s cabinet subject to further discussion.

Cllr Brian Ellis, portfolio holder for housing at the council, said: “The council does not take the decision to evict tenants lightly. However, where tenants are responsible for causing anti-social behaviour and a nuisance to others, we work closely with the police to take action.

“The legal process means that it can take some time to achieve an eviction. Nevertheless, tackling anti-social behaviour is a top priority for us and we will not hesitate to pursue legal action where it is warranted.”