An amnesty is to be offered to Swansea Council tenants illegally sub-letting properties, as a report reveals up to £4.5 million could be being lost to the authority in council tenancy fraud.
The authority's audit committee will review an annual study by the council corporate fraud team, in which the European Institute for Combating Corruption and Fraud estimates two per cent of housing stock outside London are at risk from potential tenancy fraud, which in Swansea equates to 270 properties.
And with the estimated cost of keeping a family in temporary accommodation for one year standing at £18,000, it equates to a potential loss of £4,860,000 to Swansea Council.
However, the figure is speculative and likely to be much lower, and Swansea Council says the number of empty properties within its housing stock continues to be at historic low levels, with more than 98 per cent of its 13,500 properties occupied.
The properties concerned won't be on their books as empty.
But it admits the possibility of 'a small minority' of tenants are illegally sub-letting their homes or leaving them unoccupied and living elsewhere.
To address the potential problem, Swansea Council is to offer an amnesty to any council tenant who may be engaging in the illegal activity.
The amnesty is being planned within the next few months which will provide an opportunity for any tenant who may be committing tenancy fraud, and who wishes to avoid prosecution, to hand back the keys to their property and walk away.
Andrea Lewis, Swansea Council's cabinet member for next generation services, said:
Tenancy fraud is unacceptable. Not only is it illegal, but it can deprive often vulnerable families of much-needed accommodation and generate anti-social behaviour that sometimes impacts on entire communities.Following the amnesty, any tenant caught committing tenancy fraud could face a maximum sentence of up to two years in prison, a fine of up to £50,000 and recovery not only of the property, but also the proceeds from renting the property together with all legal costs.
Although the problem here in Swansea is nowhere near as widespread as in other parts of the UK, we're determined to take action to cut down on waiting lists for council homes and help tackle the lack of affordable housing across the city.
Key amnesties have been successful in other local authority areas, with many properties having been recovered as a direct result. We'd urge anyone who is committing tenancy fraud in Swansea to surrender their tenancies now because that will avoid the council taking legal action.
People who are unlawfully sub-letting their council houses or leaving them unoccupied are also depriving other council tenants across Swansea because the money the council is losing as a direct result would be reinvested back into services for the benefit of residents.