24 Aug 2016

A bizarre case of sub-letting

An ‘eccentric’ retired teacher has been branded a benefits cheat and ordered to pay £1,750 after renting out his one-bedroom council flat on Airbnb. (h/t Dave)

Anthony Whewell, 64, earned more than £9,000 by letting out the tiny apartment in Bury, Greater Manchester, as a ‘bed and breakfast’ for almost four years.

He advertised the ‘former local authority flat’ on the website, charging £30 per night, £200 per week or £700 per month. Whewell received numerous positive reviews for his ‘friendly B&B at my place in Bury’ with visitors praising his hospitality and one calling him ‘a wonderful host’.

He even stayed up until midnight to welcome another guest, but one customer complained that a hot tub Whewell claimed was included was ‘really just a bath’. He told council investigators that he withdrew the hot tub description as a result.

But Whewell has now pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful subletting of a secure tenancy and fraud by false representation - although he avoided jail.

He began living in the flat in 2011 and started subletting it as a B&B in July 2012. It is believed that his own rent, payable to Six Town Housing, was around £65 per week, meaning he made a decent profit.

Whewell used the money he made to pay for luxury goods including a £2,000 sound system and top up his private pension fund, Bury Magistrates Court heard, which the council said ‘grew by thousands of pounds’.

Bury Council, which took the case to court, said the flat was sublet by the ex-teacher for around 500 nights until he was caught out in March this year. On occasions, customers rented out the flat for blocks at a time or for just single nights. He made breakfast for the tenants unless they had rented the entire flat for their exclusive use. But if they rented just the room, Whewell would sleep on a sofa bed in the living room or stay with his elderly father, who he cares for full-time.

Bury Council said Whewell ‘fraudulently ran a bed and breakfast business’ from his council flat while also claiming pension credit and housing benefit'.

He pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful subletting of a secure tenancy and fraud by false representation.

He was sentenced to a 12-month community order with 100 hours of unpaid work and £750 court costs. He must pay back £1,000 to the council.

He also received an 18-month suspended possession order on condition of good behaviour. He risks being kicked out over future bad behaviour or any illegality.

Whewell - who describes himself as ‘jovial and bookish’ - was away on a walking holiday when a reporter called round. However, his wife, Martha, explained that he had made the legal error due to his naivety. She described him as a ‘lovely eccentric man’ and added that he had listed the flat for around nine months before anyone actually stayed there. She said the flat was no longer listed on Airbnb.

Bury's deputy council leader Jane Lewis said those who defraud the system will be prosecuted. She added: 'There are approximately 8,000 people on our housing waiting list and it is absolutely imperative that social housing properties go to the people who need them most.'

Source with pictures


L fairfax said...

I reckon councils could create a tool that looks up houses in a database or spreadsheet and then searches google for adverts for them and emails the details to the relative council official. They could do as a competition or even give a student a free flat for the remainder of their course.

John Page said...

That's a bit entrepreneurial, isn't it? :)