In an effort to curb anti-social behaviour, Westmeath County Council will now insist that all new housing applicants submit to a Garda check, and those with any convictions or for public order offences will have to face at least another layer of interview with the housing liaison officer before they may be accepted.
This came to light at the most recent meeting of the Athlone/Kilbeggan area joint policing committee which met at the Civic Centre in Athlone to discuss the latest policy document into anti-social behaviour to be adopted by the county council.
The meeting heard how 10 applicants were refused a tenancy last year in the light of these new rules.
Westmeath’s local authorities have had limited powers to deal with anti-social behaviour since 1997, but these were dramatically increased with the Residential Tenancies Act 2004, and the Housing Act (miscellaneous provisions ) Act in 2009.
Though these dealt with good estate management practices, as well as measures to combat graffiti and damage to property, the most impotant provision was to give the local authorities the power to share information with the Gardaí and the HSE about applicants or tenants engaging in anti-social behaviour.
The most recent of these acts required all local authorites to draw up and adopt a policy by Christmas 2010.
Though a little behind in this, Westmeath authorities were able to present the county’s formal policy on anti-social behaviour to the joint policing committee this week.
In this document, Westmeath’s two local authorities have commited to uphold a number of substantive measures, including: the prevention and investigation of anti-social behaviour; Garda checks on applicants; all tenants to complete a pre-tenancy information session, and issued with a tenancy handbook; regular inspection of estates; the encouragement of the formation of residents’ associations; as well as co-operation with landlords, the Gardaí, and the HSE.
Also, any tenant engaging in anti-social behaviour will be denied a transfer for at least two years, and the authorities will also refuse to sell one of their properties to any such tenant.
“The development of this strategy involving all stakeholders will also enable housing authorities to prevent anti-social behaviour happening and eliminate it where possible,” a spokesman said.