A Gloucester housing provider is using technology to combat tenancy fraud and release homes for those in genuine need.
Tenancy fraud is leaving many Gloucester families without a place to truly call home.
Across the county, unlawful tenants are blocking access to housing already in short supply from those in need, many of whom are being forced into temporary accommodation.
For Gloucester City Council, the issue has huge financial significance, with temporary accommodation a costly repercussion. If stamped out, money drained by tenancy fraud could be spent elsewhere.
Gloucester City Homes (GCH), which manages almost 5,000 properties across the county, decided to use data technology to take a proactive approach in tackling the issue. Since October 2016 it has been using Housing Partner's Insight software, which combines information on tenants from hundreds of sources, to set pointers for criminal activity.
Sara Hendry, Anti-Social Behaviour Manager at GCH, said: "Insight has notified us of 70 potential fraud alerts. From these, we're currently considering proceeding with two criminal convictions, both of which are sub-letting cases. In one, we have strong evidence of unlawful profit being made. Both properties have now been returned to us.
"Using this technology, it's easier to really get to know our tenants. We can see who needs our help with debt and money worries, and spot those that are potentially committing criminal offences."
It is estimated that around 50,000 housing association and council homes in the UK are occupied by someone who shouldn't live there.
Local councils in England have spent around £3.5bn on temporary accommodation over the last five years.
Before using Insight, GCH was using a combination of sources to identify and prevent fraud.
Manually collating information, the social landlord would consider things such as long periods of time without a repair reported or maintenance staff being unable to access properties for routine gas checks.
However, this method was time consuming and did not always identify fraud.
This report is muddled, in that it fails to distinguish between City and County.
But sadly there are more families needing social housing than could be housed even if all the fraudulently occupied accommodation became available.