Colin Grainger

Illegal sublet homes initiative saves £1.4 million

An initiative to bring illegally sublet council homes back into use has seen the return of 26 homes saving Newham Council more than £1.4 million.​

New legislation introduced in October last year made tenancy fraud a criminal offence. Newham Council launched a key amnesty which ran from October until January this year offering tenants who had either illegally sublet their property or left it vacant, to hand the property back over to the council rather than face prosecution.

As a result of the amnesty, 26 council homes are in the process of being returned with a further six under investigation. The council has already recovered 19 of the 26 homes which will be relet to families on the housing waiting list.

According to figures from the Audit Commission, the return of these homes has saved the council more than £1.4m.

During the amnesty, almost 50 people contacted the council, some to voluntarily hand back their keys, others to report illegal subletting. Tenants who admitted to subletting were given time to vacate the property. All leads are being investigated by the council.

The Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013, which became law last October, means tenancy fraud is now a criminal offence and punishable by a custodial sentence of up to two years and a £5,000 fine.

It also gives the council power to recover profits made from fraud.Newham Council regularly carries out rigorous audit checks on all of its properties. Photographs of more than 11,000 tenants have been added to the tenancy database.

Key fob audits, when all fobs for a block are deactivated, regularly take place and fobs will only be reactivated for the legal resident of the property.

Cllr Andrew Baikie, executive member for Housing and Customer Service, said: “Tenancy fraud costs the council thousands of pounds and robs residents who may have been on the housing register for years of a home.

“Bringing these properties back into our housing stock frees them up for someone on the council’s waiting list.

“We have a shortage of high quality homes available and thousands of people waiting for a council home so it is imperative that our housing stock is distributed fairly. We know that the majority of our tenants live in their properties legally but it is important that we tackle those who are committing fraud.”

If you have a tenancy with the council but live elsewhere and then sublet the property to another person, you are committing fraud.

Tenancy fraud also includes providing false information when applying for housing and illegally applying to succeed a tenancy of someone who has died. If caught and convicted, you could end up in prison.If you are aware of anyone committing these offences call (020) 3373 3258 or (020) 3373 3261 in confidence.

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This article was written on 11 Feb 2014, and is filed under community, East London, family life, homes, Newham, Newham Council.

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