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11 Nov 2013

Another 'keys amnesty' - good idea

South Essex Homes and Southend Council have joined Barnet and doubtless others in offering illegal sub-letters a short amnesty period if they hand in their keys.

Council tenants who illegally sub-let their homes have been warned to hand their back keys or face prosecution.

South Essex Homes and Southend Council have announced a “key amnesty” for such tenants in an effort to get offenders to own up before the weight of a new law is brought to bear on them.

Under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act, which came into force last month, tenants illegally sub-letting property could face a two year prison sentence and a fine of as much as £50,000.

Under the amnesty, Southend Council tenants who are sub-letting are being offered the chance to end their tenancies without fear of prosecution for tenancy fraud if they give up their properties before November 30.

Lynsey Hurd, from South Essex Homes, which manages Southend Council’s housing stock, said:
Not only is sub-letting a problem for us as landlords, it is also a nuisance for other tenants, so we welcome the new legislation that now makes it a criminal offence. This sends out a clear message subletting and tenancy fraud of any kind will not be tolerated and action will be taken where needed. With our properties always in demand, there is never a greater need to ensure that homes are being let fairly and made available to the people who need them the most.
Andrew Moring, Southend councillor responsible for support services, said tenancy fraud was a serious issue:
While the council is committed to providing housing for those who are entitled, it also has a duty to protect public finances and proceed against anyone committing fraud. Therefore, we’re working closely with South Essex Homes to crack down on this very serious issue. With the introduction of the new Act,, the threat of taking their home and tenancy is not the only action the council can take against fraudsters. The amnesty provides a chance for tenants to take action before the council does.
Judith Codarin, secretary of the South East Alliance of Landlords, said: “Sub-letting is outrageous. It’s illegal and very difficult for landlords to deal with”.

Social housing fraud is the wickedest welfare fraud. It's so much more than the money - needy families are being deprived of the chance to have a settled home that suits their needs.

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