16 Feb 2015

Two properties returned so far in Cornwall keys amnesty

We looked at Cornwall's belated adoption of a keys amnesty here. Cornwall Council estimated that as many as 200 Cornwall Council and Cornwall Housing tenancies could be affected.

Well, now we have an update.

Two homes have so far been returned to Cornwall Housing use as a result of a 'key amnesty' programme run by the council.

With a couple of weeks still to go until the end of the amnesty, which gives people who are illegally subletting or not living in their council homes the opportunity to hand back their keys, the operation's hotline has received 69 calls and two properties have been surrendered by tenants

The two month programme runs until 28 February 2015, and allows people to hand back their keys rather than face possible criminal investigation and potential legal action which could ultimately result in a criminal conviction.

The council said: "Every property being used fraudulently stops another household in housing need from accessing that affordable housing. A new home costs on average well over £150,000 to build and there are almost 28,000 households registered on Cornwall Homechoice seeking an affordable home, making it even more important that those committing tenancy fraud do not get away with depriving other households out of the homes they need."

Illegal subletting happens when a council home is let to a tenant and that tenant then moves out and illegally lets the property to someone else – usually at a higher rent.

Not only is this illegal, it prevents much needed homes from being made available to families in genuine need and in addition costs every household in Cornwall money.

Cornwall Council’s Corporate Fraud Team and Cornwall Housing Ltd have been working in partnership since August 2014 to tackle tenancy fraud and, in what is believed to be the first such prosecution in Cornwall under new Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act legislation, a former tenant was convicted of tenancy fraud in December for illegally moving out of and then subletting a council house. The former tenant was given a 12 month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay Cornwall Council’s full investigation and legal costs after admitting moving out of the property and subletting it.

Jane Barlow, managing director of Cornwall Housing, said: “This prosecution shows that this type of activity will not be tolerated by Cornwall Housing Ltd. We have been working in partnership with Cornwall Council’s experienced Corporate Fraud Team and two homes have already been surrendered.
We have seen evidence of how introducing a key amnesty has worked well in other parts of the country. By bringing the issue to the public’s attention, other authorities saw an increase in referrals to its tenancy fraud hotline and we are seeing the same results here. We know that the overwhelming majority of residents live in their homes legally and that they share our commitment to tackling tenancy fraud and I would encourage anyone who suspects someone of committing tenancy fraud to get in touch.”

Joyce Duffin, Cornwall Council Cabinet Member for Housing and Environment said: “It costs on average £18,000 a year to house a family in temporary accommodation. There is huge pressure on the supply of social housing making it imperative that the housing we do have available goes to people in genuine need of help. It’s totally wrong for people not to be living in housing intended for them and to be potentially illegally profiting from it at the same time.”

The initiative was launched in the wake of a change in the law and the introduction of the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 in October 2013, which means people illegally subletting their property can now face a prison sentence of up to two years, a criminal record, or a fine of up to £5,000.

Joyce adds: “I would urge anyone either not living in or illegally sub-letting their council home to get in touch right away. Once the amnesty ends anyone found not to be living in their home or illegally subletting will face the full force of the new powers.”

Anyone who is illegally subletting or is not living in their council home should hand back their keys to the Council’s Corporate Fraud Team, local housing officer or housing office.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

200 phoney tennants and they think they have problem , if someone had the courage to look closely at the 'ethnically enriched 'areas of our major cities