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31 Mar 2015

Costs order for social housing fraud

A family have been evicted from the three-bedroom house they were living in and ordered to pay £30,000 after it was discovered the social housing tenant who was supposed to be living there was actually living somewhere else.

Following an anonymous tip-off, Circle Housing worked alongside Hackney Council’s fraud investigations team and found the home in Forston Street, Shoreditch, was occupied by Margaret Nelson’s daughter Amanda Murray, 51, and her family, while 73-year-old Mrs Nelson – the tenant – lived in Sunnyhill Close with her husband.

Mrs Nelson, her daughter, and her husband Liam Murray, 52, and son Lee Murray, 29, were ordered to pay costs of £30,000 at the Royal Courts of Justice on March 11.

Under the recently introduced Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013, tenancy fraud is now a criminal offence that can lead to a two-year prison sentence and unlimited fine.

Mrs Nelson was accused of a “breathtaking” scope of lies, including that she was unable to read, whilst her daughter was accused of “lying like a trooper”.

Although Circle Housing Circle 33 conceded that Mrs Nelson was a regular visitor to Forston Street, it says she had not lived there for at least a decade.

Defence counsel argued that the fact Mrs Nelson stayed overnight in Sunnyhill Close did not necessarily mean that Forston Street was not her main home, and criticised a “flawed investigation”.

Avril Drummond, customer service manager for Circle Housing Circle 33, said housing fraud is taken “very seriously”.

She added: “Every home not occupied by the registered tenant costs taxpayers around £18,000 a year and prevents families on the waiting list and in need of a home from moving into a property. This case demonstrates the important role played by the local community as well as the local authorities in tackling tenancy fraud.”

The social housing property is now back in Circle Housing’s possession and will be made available to someone in genuine need of social housing.

In three years Circle Housing Circle 33 has recovered more than 200 homes.

Source

Social housing fraud is the most wicked form of welfare fraud. The sums that can be saved are huge, but 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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