The NFI report said it is “disappointed” by the 37% decrease, down from 86 properties in the last reporting period in 2014. The report published on Friday said: “It is disappointing that, since our report in June 2014, there has been a decrease of 37%… This decrease, when compared to our previous reporting period of 86 properties, continues to be a trend [235 properties were recovered in 2010/11].”
The report added: “We will work with our key stakeholders in this area to better understand the reasons behind the decrease in properties recovered so we can enhance our data matching to better help tackle tenancy fraud.”
The NFI said it is also disappointed that only 32 out of 1,582 housing associations chose to take part in its audit. Out of these 32 associations six properties were unlawfully occupied.
The total cost to the public purse of social housing fraud is estimated to be £919m. “Given the scale of the potential fraud loss to the public purse, it is vital that housing associations play their part in tackling tenancy fraud,” the report said.
Only two tenants were prosecuted this year. In one case a tenant provided false immigration papers when in fact he did not have the right to remain in the UK. The claimant also provided a false passport, which allowed him to claim housing and council tax benefit. He has been evicted and arrested, and his case is due to be heard in court.
The Voluntary Right to Buy for housing associations and Pay to Stay for councils could present future fraud risks, the NFI said.
Since the government has offered tenants a larger discount through Right to Buy, the NFI said councils have only stopped four applications that were in progress, compared to 21 in 2014. The report said this might indicate that the fraud risk is “not as big as other indicators suggest or that NFI is not currently an effective tool to identify Right to Buy fraud”.
The report said last year 1.2 million families were waiting for social housing and “identifying unlawful sub-letting would free up properties for those on the waiting list”. Tenancy fraud should be a “key priority” for councils and housing associations, the report added.
Policy leader for the National Housing Federation, John Bryant, said housing associations did not take part in the National Fraud Initiative because “they decided it wasn’t going to be particularly helpful in efforts to combat fraud.”
Mr Bryant said it is wrong to assume housing associations are not tackling fraud because they are not involved with the NFI. He said associations are “alert and alive” to the risks of fraud and deal with it as a “priority”.
Come on, Mr Bryant, tell us the numbers! They should be huge.
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.