An Exeter man has been sentenced at magistrates after illegally subletting his Local authority council flat when he was living somewhere else.
David Mukanirwa, 31, of Darwin Court was prosecuted under S1(2) of the prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 for subletting his Exeter flat on two occasions whilst he lived in Swindon after advertising it for rent on Gumtree.
Mr Mukanirwa pleaded guilty and said that he told the council that one of the subtenants was his girlfriend so that he could get permission from them for her to stay there. However, she said that when she was moving in she had met a neighbour who told her she would be evicted on Monday whent he council found her there.
He went on to say that he wanted to save money to pay the tuition fee for his university course and that he wasn't going to afford this with paying for two flats. However, he also said that English was not his first or even his second language and that he had not understood what 'subletting' meant and thought that, so long as he had permission from the council for her to be there it was okay.
In sentencing, the chair of the bench, David Whittaker, said that, whilst the bench had some sympathy, he had sublet his flat when he knew that he shouldnt and said that one of the tenants was his girlfriend when he knew that she wasnt.
Saying that they were taken into account the very limited amount of money that Mr Mukanirwa was earning, he was sentenced to £100 fine per offence, a victim surcharge of £20 and prosecution costs of £450, making £610 in total.
Plymouth City Council brought the prosecution as part of its work with the Devon Social Housing Fraud Forum on behalf of Exeter City Council - which is made up of other local authorities and social landlords in Devon to tackle tenancy fraud.
Although this particular case involves a defendant and offences in Exeter, Plymouth takes the lead in prosecuting housing fraud in Devon.
Cllr Rob Hannaford, Exeter City Council’s Lead Councillor for Housing Revenue Account, said: “There are thousands of people who desperately need a home. However tenancy fraud within social housing isn’t fair and costs the tax payer around £900 million a year. Those that are carrying out this fraud are cheating those people who genuinely need a home. This prosecution sends a clear message that tough action will be taken against those people who commit social housing fraud.”
Why had been allocated a subsidised flat in the first place? And not one flat, but two. What university course was he going to pursue with English not even his second language? What qualifications did he have?
This account raises many questions.