The number of detected Right to Buy frauds in London has more than doubled in a year, councils have reported.
The report, by the London Boroughs’ Fraud Investigators’ Group, shows there were 300 detected Right to Buy frauds in the capital in 2014/15, up from 131 in 2013/14. The value of Right to Buy frauds has almost trebled, from £9m to £26.5m, over the same period.
The report estimates that around 3% of Right to Buy applications are fraudulent. The government increased Right to Buy discounts in April 2012 and the maximum discount is currently £103,000 in London.
It said: “The significant sums involved and the relentless increases in property values, especially in London, have made RTB discounts highly attractive, including to fraudsters. In the two years immediately after the discount increase was implemented, there was a near five-fold increase in the number of RTB frauds detected nationally.”
The report also shows that the number of detected housing benefit frauds has dropped 50% from 5,734 in 2013/14 to 2014/15, with the total value dropping from £28.2m to £23.5m over the same period.
However the average value of housing benefit frauds detected increased from £4,926 to £8,393, suggesting investigators are focusing more on detecting higher value cases.
Responsibility for investigating housing benefit and council tax benefit fraud is moving in stages to the Department for Work and Pensions, completing in March.
The report said: “Those London boroughs still investigating housing benefit and council tax benefit fraud are focusing on higher value frauds. This is an understandable development, but may indicate that they are generally not investigating lower value housing benefit frauds.’
The government is planning to extend higher Right to Buy discounts to housing association tenants. A Housing Bill to implement this is expected to come before parliament later in the year.