20 Jan 2016

Now Tower Hamlets announces keys amnesty

Illegally sublet social rented properties have been seized after two cases of tenancy fraud in London’s East End were taken to court.

The seizures by Poplar Harca social landlords on two housing estates were revealed on the eve of Tower Hamlets council declaring a “housing amnesty” for any tenants illegally subletting.

Don't rush now.

Tower Hamlets has London’s longest housing waiting list, with almost 20,000 families in the queue for a home.

One property being sublet on Poplar’s Leopold Estate was brought to light by a tip-off from a neighbour which led to a possession order granted by Bow County Court. A second property which had been left empty with an absent tenant for three years was recovered from nearby Lansbury North Estate.

Don't rush now.

Eight properties have now been seized by Poplar Harca since April and five fraudulent Right to Buy claims have been stopped.

“We operate a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to housing fraud,” Poplar Harca’s counter-fraud investigator Avril Drummond said. “Every repossession means another family on the waiting list can be housed.”

Tower Hamlets Council, meanwhile, launched its amnesty with its own housing organisation and other local housing associations, hoping to recover illegally sublet properties and stamp out fraud estimated at £13 million a year.

A two-bedroom property the council has already retrieved in Bethnal Green has been given to a young mum on the waiting list, Amy Sictorness, 22, who has made 200 applications for a home since 2012. She now has a home for her five-month-old baby Lucia.

Amy said: “It’s shocking that people use social housing to make money. It means people like me wait longer than we should for a home.”

The local authority has pledged to “honour the amnesty”—but also warned it would use its powers to stamp out tenancy fraud.

Mayor John Biggs said: “It is wrong for people to make a ‘quick buck’ at the expense of those who desperately need a home. Our priority is to get illegally sublet social housing back, for the people on our housing list and to protect the public purse.”

The amnesty runs until March 6 for those illegally subletting to hand back the keys to the council or housing association without consequence.

Tenancy fraud is a criminal offence, the council warns, with prosecution that can lead to £5,000 fines or even a prison sentence.


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