24 Nov 2014

News of keys amnesties reaches Cornwall

We've written before about the results of keys amnesties in various parts of the country (click on the keys amnesty label at the end of this post). Word of them has now filtered through to Cornwall.

Cornwall Council is giving people commiting tenancy fraud in social housing the chance to hand in their house keys and walk away.

The authority says that Government statistics show the fraud is potentially on the increase, and that as many as 200 Cornwall Council and Cornwall Housing tenancies are affected, leaving those in genuine need of affordable housing out in the cold.

A council spokesman said; "In order to combat those increases a new law, The Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013, came into force in October 2013. This means that tenants committing tenancy fraud in social housing tenancies now risk criminal investigation and prosecution in addition to the risk of losing their tenancy and significant court costs.

"Tenancy fraud mainly occurs as a result of fraudulent applications for housing (waiting list and homelessness applications), fraudulent succession applications, unlawful sub-letting, key-selling, property abandonment, fraudulent “Right to Buy” applications and unauthorised assignments.

"Every property being used fraudulently stops another household in housing need from accessing that affordable housing.

"New homes cost on average well over £150,000 to build and the costs of housing homeless families in temporary accommodation can total up to £18,000 whilst they wait to access the accommodation they need, not to mention what the impacts of being homeless have on those households.

"Additionally there are over 28,000 households registered on Cornwall Homechoice all seeking an affordable home so it makes it even more important that those committing tenancy fraud do not get away with depriving other households out of the homes they need.

"Cornwall Housing and Cornwall Council have always worked hard to prevent tenancy fraud, but with new powers to help us deal with tenancy fraud we are even more determined to identify those tenants and deal with them accordingly.

"Cornwall Council and Cornwall Housing are working in partnership and have a specialist fraud team who will investigate any concerns or reports of tenancy fraud. We have already had recent successes where two properties have been returned to us without the need to pursue a full criminal investigation or to consider taking criminal proceedings.

"This provides the extra benefit of homes being returned quickly without protracted investigations and legal cases and without the additional burdens of high legal costs."

Cornwall Council and Cornwall Housing are running a 'Key Amnesty' from January 1, 2015 to February 28, 2015, allowing tenants who are committing tenancy fraud to end their tenancy, hand back their keys and avoid potential criminal investigation, prosecution proceedings and legal costs.

The spokesman added: "The amnesty is Cornwall Housing and Cornwall Council’s Corporate Fraud Team’s response to the change in the law that means tenants who illegally sublet homes can now face a prison sentence, criminal record and/or a fine of up to £5,000. Our amnesty is a chance for tenants to hand back the keys, avoid these penalties and to give a home to someone who really needs it.

"It also benefits other households in housing need as it means that potentially properties come back much quicker so are available to let sooner, and it means money is saved by avoiding what can be lengthy and expensive investigations and protracted court cases.

"Most of our information about possible tenancy fraud comes from other tenants who are concerned about not seeing their neighbour on a regular basis, or who don’t recognise the person living next to them.

"Reporting those concerns makes a real difference in finding and dealing with people who are abusing their tenancies."


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