The authority will hold a tenancy fraud amnesty, whereby any illegal landlords who admit to their crimes by November 7 will escape prosecution.
However, once the campaign ends, the council will be allocating extra manpower to seeking out remaining offenders and seeking severe punishments through the courts.
The offending tenants have been told to hand their keys in by the cut-off date or face prosecution. A collection box for keys has been installed in the council foyer.
A council spokesman said that once the amnesty ended, the authority will start enforcing the new Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act, which has made it easier to prosecute offenders by introducing two new offences. Those successfully prosecuted under the new act could be sent to jail and/or ordered to pay up to £50,000.
Council leader Phil Turner said:
This campaign will tackle housing fraud in the interests of supporting those in genuine need and ensuring we deliver value for money. Once the key amnesty ends, our team will be working 24/7 and any tenant caught committing council house fraud will face prosecution. The campaign is seen as a major offensive on housing fraud, with extra resources being made available to investigate and prosecute. Work elsewhere in the country has shown that as much as five per cent of council-owned properties are involved in some form of housing fraud. This means there are potentially hundreds of families on Basildon’s waiting list who shouldn’t be there.Source