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24 Feb 2015

Keys amnesty reaches Slough

Local authorities sometimes move slowly. After Cornwall, word of keys amnesties has reached Slough.

An amnesty is being held in Slough in order to give tenants who are illegally subletting their council homes the chance to hand their keys back.

Those who wish to avoid prosecution for tenancy fraud, a crime which could land offenders in jail or with a hefty fine, will be able to drop their keys in to the council between March 1 and 31, with no questions asked.

The keys must be placed in an envelope with the property’s address clearly written on it and dropped in the key amnesty box at MyCouncil, in Landmark Place.

A major crackdown on tenants who cheat the system will be launched in April with council officers stepping up doorstep checks, using electronic document readers to verify tenants’ details and working with the National Fraud initiative to weed out fraudulent housing applications.

“This amnesty will give anyone who has been subletting their council property for whatever reason the chance to make a clean break,” said tenancy fraud officer, John Moores. “It’s also an opportunity for people to tell us if they don’t use their council property as their main home or have moved in with a partner. After the amnesty we will be cracking down hard on tenancy fraudsters, prosecuting any cases we come across. So this really is the last chance to come clean without the fear of being taken to court.”

For every illegally sublet property, the council pays around £20,000 a year to find alternative accommodation for a family who could otherwise be housed.

“We have such a huge demand for social housing in Slough, with nearly 2,000 households in need and waiting for a council house,” said Cllr James Swindlehurst, deputy leader and commissioner for neighbourhoods and renewal. “Each property returned to the council will mean a new home for one of these families and money saved to the council for other things. Sometimes tenants have let friends use their property while they’re away, leading to a longer term arrangement involving an exchange of cash rather than any pre-planned criminality. However, tenancy fraud is a serious crime, not to mention a breach of our tenancy agreement, and its one we’re not willing to turn a blind eye to. The likelihood is that we’ll catch up with you sooner or later, so do the right thing and drop your keys back with no questions asked while you still can.”

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