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On the naughty step – a ‘rising star’ of Barking


Sadly, it appears that it is necessary to revive the long lapsed tradition of the Nearly Legal Naughty Step post.

We have encountered a number of councils putting, or trying to put, damn silly clauses in their tenancy agreements for secure tenants, and then threatening to evict tenants who breach these damn silly clauses. There was Sandwell silencing tenants, for example (and they were not alone in trying to include such a clause). And there was the spectacle of Wandsworth attempting to impose a clause forbidding the tenant, their household, or their visitors from behaving badly anywhere in the whole borough, on pain of eviction. That one – which is all too relevant for what follows – ended in humiliation for Wandsworth when they actually tried to use it.

But yesterday (Monday) came news of what has to be the stupidest attempt to threaten its tenants with spurious eviction grounds by a council yet. And this one comes from Barking and Dagenham Council via its leader (and candidate for MP for Barking at the next election) Darren Rodwell.

Mr Rodwell, it appears (through direct quotes) has decided that Barking tenants should face eviction if their child is involved in a knife crime incident.

“If your child is involved in an incident and knows who the perpetrators are, and refuses to speak out, we will look at reviewing your housing agreement,”

“Everyone must play their part in stopping these crimes. As parents, it is up to us to know where our children are, and that we play an active role.”

Note that ‘involved’ – there are obviously a lot of ways people could be ‘involved’ in a knife crime incident without being a perpetrator or accessory. They could, for instance, be the victim. Or a bystander. Or someone in a group who had no idea what was going to happen or had no responsibility for it.

But hey, Darren is going to come for your parent’s tenancy if you don’t turn someone in. Lovely tenancy agreement your mum’s got there. Shame if anything were to happen to it.

Mr Rodwell then broadened that out somewhat:  “If families know their relatives are linked to crime, they must speak up or we will start to look at tenancy agreements.”

So, maybe your cousin the other side of the borough is a bit iffy. Darren will be looking at your tenancy agreement.

This is, of course, stupendously stupid. Let us look at just a few reasons why.

First, Mr Rodwell won’t be evicting anyone unless their conduct or that of a member of their household, or visitor:

has been guilty of conduct causing or likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance to a person residing, visiting or otherwise engaging in a lawful activity in the locality,

Or allowing the property to be used for a immoral or illegal purpose.

That’s ground 2, Schedule 2, Housing Act 1985. (Ground 2ZA may be an alternative if convicted of an offence during a riot).

So ‘guilty of conduct in the locality’ or illegal use of the property. Being ‘involved’ in a knife crime incident somewhere, or ‘having a relative linked to crime’, not so much. In fact not at all. There are precisely zero chances of Mr Rodwell’s council evicting anyone unless ground 2 or 2ZA conditions are met.

So far, so blowhard. But it gets worse.

If Barking and Dagenham are considering amending their tenancy agreements to add clauses regarding informing on others, they should have Wandsworth’s fate in LB Wandsworth v Maggott 2013 in mind. Any such clause would not be an obligation of the tenancy. It would be a personal obligation, and as such, not enforceable as a breach of tenancy by possession proceedings under Ground 1 Schedule 2, Housing Act 1985.

So, as far as the law goes, there is precisely zero chance of Barking and Dagenham or Mr Darren Rodwell actually evicting anyone for not getting their child who witnessed a knife crime incident to come forward as a witness, or for the tenant not shopping their iffy cousin.

Either Mr Rodwell has spoken to lawyers and knows this, or he hasn’t and doesn’t. Neither option is appealing and I’ll come back to this below.

And then secondly, in the list of stupidity, what if a) it could be done, or b) more seriously, tenants believe he could do it, even though he can’t?

As an experienced anti social behaviour officer, Nick Pettigrew, put it on twitter

Having dealt with ASB for over fifteen years, including countless tenancy proceedings & dealing with families involved (as both victim & perp) in youth knife crime, I hope I can speak with some authority when I say this is comfortably the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard.

Apart from the fact it will make innocent people homeless, apart from the fact it will get even more people killed & apart from the fact it is unworkable on a practical or legal level, it would do nothing at all to reduce knife crime. Anyone suggesting this is dangerously stupid.

And in reply to me

Yep. And if a family member *does* give evidence of knife crime the whole family is likely at risk, meaning they’d all need rehousing, placing a bigger burden on already overstretched services. It wouldn’t survive five minutes contact with the real world.

And this is of course quite right. Mr Rodwell is demanding that parents put their children at severe risk, and indeed the rest of the family, or get evicted (or at least believe that they may be).

According to the Guardian

Rodwell said the council would offer support in the first instance but that if parents declined, the authorities were “likely to view them as part of the problem”.

Assuming ‘support’ means moving people if they are in danger, firstly, the council simply does not have the resources or accommodation to do this, and secondly, for heaven’s sake, councils take 7 years to fix a leak in a tenant’s flat. How quick and responsive are people going to believe they are going to be in assessing danger and moving people to a safe location? Seriously? Otherwise Barking’s homeless unit would be looking at a lot of ‘not reasonable to remain’ homeless applications, which it has no way of dealing with.

So, having established that this is stupid in law, and stupid as a threat, where does that leave us with ‘rising star’ Mr Rodwell?

Either he has taken legal advice on whether the council can do this (to which the answer from any competent lawyer would be no), or he hasn’t.

If he has taken advice, he knows that this is pure posturing, self publicity and noise. But it does have the real threat that Barking tenants might believe him – tenants, like local councillors, are often not aware of the intricacies of the Housing Act 1985 – and tenants acting on the basis that the threat might be real would have all the bad consequences, for them and also for the council, of the position being real. People’s lives would be at risk, and the council simply could not possibly manage to safeguard them or move them, even if its entire allocation and transfer system broke down as a result.

If Mr Rodwell hasn’t taken advice and thinks he actually can do this, what kind of fool makes such public pronouncements without checking the legalities first? We would appear to be back to posturing, self publicity and noise again, but this time with a disregard for the law as well as for the safety of tenants.

This site has seen a long history of politicians seeking to make a name or place for themselves by making contentious (but dim-witted) proposals about social housing, from Caroline Flint, through Grant Shapps, to Brandon Lewis. There would have been more, but they weren’t in post for long enough. At a time when the importance of social housing is back on the agenda, and the widespread failures of councils as landlords is all too evident, it is a pity to see such posturing again.

In any event, for coming up with the stupidest idea, Darren Rodwell is on the Nearly Legal Naughty Step until he stops it. He gets a badge.


Naughty Step Badge




Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.


  1. Ian Narbeth

    May I nominate Durham Council for the naughty step? Among their selective licensing conditions (breach of which means the landlord can be fined) is this:

    “If the licence holder identifies any housing support needs for the tenant, they must ensure that a housing support plan, and the provision of support under the plan, are put in place for the tenant prior to the commencement of the tenancy. If any other support needs are identified, the licence holder will ensure that any necessary referrals are put in place prior to the commencement of the tenancy. ”

    It appears private sector landlords are being dragooned as unpaid social workers!

    • J

      Isn’t this an attempt to deal with the problem of abusive “exempt accommodation” providers, which led to the Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act 2023 (and which will come into force later this year / early next, creating, in effect, a bespoke licensing scheme for supported housing and avoiding having to shoe-horn it into Parts 2 and 3 HA 2004)?


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