How slow can councils be?
Tenants who have made a false housing application – such as an unauthorised sublet – are being offered a “key amnesty” in a bid to free up local homes.
But from February the council says it’s starting a major clampdown on tenancy fraud, using data matching technology to net culprits. The aim is to make more council and housing association homes available for those in genuine need.
East Dunbartonshire Council and Antonine and Hillhead housing associations say the offer is open until January 31 - carrying on from the same deal offered in December.
It means anyone who has made a false housing application, or sublet their home without permission, or no longer stays in the property, will be given the chance – “no questions asked” – to avoid prosecution.
There are currently more than 5,350 social housing properties in East Dunbartonshire, of which around 3,500 are owned by the council.
The cost to the public purse for each case of tenancy fraud is said to be around £93,000, and it also deprives a family of a home.
Someone commits tenancy fraud if, for example, they give false information about themselves, or use false documents when applying for housing, or have a social housing tenancy already but live somewhere else. It’s also fraud to sublet all or part of the home to someone else without the consent of their landlord.
The council warns anybody committing tenancy fraud could not only face having a criminal record but could ultimately face a prison sentence.
Council leader Councillor Rhondda Geekie said: “We are experiencing an acute housing shortage in East Dunbartonshire and our social housing stock is vital to helping us address this. People subletting homes illegally are depriving another family of a permanent place to stay and it’s unfair to the thousands of people on our housing list, many of whom have been waiting a long time for a property. Anyone who hands in their keys to end their tenancy or removes their name from the waiting list during the amnesty will not have legal action taken against them and the council can re-let the properties to legitimate applicants. In these times of such financial constraints, it is more important than ever that we uncover all fraud against the Council. We will continue to work with our partners to ensure that social housing is going to the people and families who need it.”
Stephen Macintyre, Director of Hillhead Housing Association, said: “In the past the Association has found it frustrating that its powers to deal with tenancy fraud have been very limited, but now this joint approach offers a more effective means of dealing with people who obtain a tenancy fraudulently. We hope that this amnesty will help to ensure that only those in genuine need of a home get one."