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14 Jul 2017

BBFI discuss social housing fraud

BBFI agree with us about social housing fraud. They say

Social housing fraud is the wickedest form of welfare fraud. There’s more than the financial dimension: there isn’t enough social housing available, so every fraudulent occupation lengthens waiting lists, and every detection gives a family or individual in temporary accommodation a better life.

The Audit Commission put the cost of social housing tenancy fraud to the taxpayer nationally at £1.8 billion in 2012. Councils recovered nearly 1,800 homes in 2011, with a total replacement value of nearly £264 million. But this barely scratches the surface of the problem.

Experian suggests that at least 160,000 social homes are unlawfully sublet in the UK, but we believe this is a very low estimate. A study of social housing fraud in Westminster reported a raid on one Paddington housing block that revealed 75% of housing benefit claimants were not living in their registered properties and were illegally subletting them for thousands of pounds a week. Another raid, on the luxury 600-flat Park West development on Edgware Road, found 61% of claimants were subletting their properties. The cost of social housing fraud in the City of Westminster alone may be as much as £22 million a year.

Freeing up sublet properties would be the cheapest and quickest way to make more social housing available. There are 8 million council or housing association homes in England and 1.8 million households on the waiting list. Tackling subletting and property misuse could go a long way to releasing the 1.8 million homes to genuine tenants in waiting.

Of the 4.1 million socially owned homes 2.2 million are rented from local authorities, and 1.9 million from other social landlords. This is a national asset that needs to be protected from people who want to misuse that asset. That misuse takes many forms. For example, we will investigate:

  • Unlawful subletting, including subletting the whole property to a single household, and multiple sublets within one property
     
  • Non-occupation by tenants as their principal home
     
  • Wrongly claimed succession: retention of a tenancy following the death or vacation of the tenant following a previous succession, or of a non-qualifying person
     
  • Unlawful assignment
     
  • “Key selling”, where the tenant leaves the property and passes on the keys in return for a one-off lump sum payment or favour
     
  • Fraudulently obtaining a social housing tenancy, including misrepresentation of identity and misrepresentation of circumstances
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