Oldham Council gains fresh powers to evict bad tenants

A NEW tenancy agreement for all of Oldham City Council's 20,600 tenants comes into force this week.

The agreement, which is designed to give the council greater powers to evict tenants and promote neighbourly behaviour, took housing solicitor Naseem Malik 16 months to prepare.

The 29-page document delineates unacceptable conduct and outlines what punishment will be meted out to tenants who breach its conditions.

In addition to the English language version, which won an award for clarity from the Plain English Society, the agreement has been produced in Bangla, Gujarati and Urdu.

Malik said she believed the agreement's exhaustive detail made it unique to the UK.

She described the document as "prescriptive rather than reactive" and said its aim was to promote "civic responsibility – making people think before they act".

The council has taken advantage of the 1996 Housing Act to introduce a one-year probation period for new tenants.

Controversially, the act allows councils to introduce a probationary period during which it will be easier for them to evict unruly tenants.

Before introducing the new agreement, the council held consultations with tenants, the police and social welfare groups.

However, Paul Johnson, supervising solicitor at Oldham Law Centre, said the agreement "goes beyond what's normal in a tenancy agreement". He argued that it could impinge upon civil liberties.

"There are things in the document that are worrying. The problem isn't with the English but the legal interpretation of what is being said."

Johnson claimed the new agreement could cause unnecessary anxiety to people already dealing with the real problems of day-to-day living.

He added that, although it gave the council "draconian powers" of enforcement, it did not adequately define when behaviour became anti-social.

Manchester City Council's principal housing solicitor Celia Tierney said she was surprised at the length of the document.