A council tenant has been ordered to pay Barnet Council almost £130,000 after illegally subletting his council home for 16 years.
David Lawal, 56, of Clifton Gardens, Uxbridge, pleaded guilty to five charges of obtaining services by deception and sub-letting a property following an investigation by the council’s Corporate Anti-Fraud Team (CAFT).
Harrow Crown Court heard how Lawal and his family had presented themselves as homeless to the council in 1994 and were offered a two bedroom property in Kingsbury Road, Colindale. But as the investigation later revealed, Lawal failed to declare that he in fact owned three other homes.
A council spokesman said: “Lawal did not give up his tenancy on the council house in Kingsbury Road and instead sublet it to various tenants over the years until finally handing back the keys in October 2014. In 2005 Lawal even contacted the council to say the council property in Colindale was too small for him and his family and requested a larger property. When investigators called at the Colindale house they found subtenants living in the property and that the lounge had been partitioned to provide further accommodation.”
Lawal was sentenced on May 12 when he was handed a 14-month suspended sentence, ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work, pay a compensation order of £127,000, pay costs of more than £20,000 and a victim surcharge of £100. The £127,000 compensation order was calculated on the basis of how much it would have cost the council to house a family of four in temporary accommodation over the period the illegal subletting took place.
Lawal now has six months in which to pay the money to the council.
Councillor Richard Cornelius, Leader of Barnet Council, said: “Council homes are there for those in genuine need so it’s totally unacceptable for someone to abuse the system in such a brazen fashion as this, and over such a long period of time. Not only was this council house sublet but its tenant was the owner of three properties. This case, and the size of the compensation order which must be paid, sends out a very clear message to anyone who might be contemplating something similar.”
Illegal sub-letting of social housing is a wicked crime. It's not just the (considerable amount of) money - people and families who need a home are being deprived of it.