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Showing posts with label Cornwall. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cornwall. Show all posts

15 Dec 2015

Light sentence for illegal sub-letting

A second successful prosecution has been completed in Cornwall under new Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act legislation.

Carol Ann Broaders (60) formerly of Newham Road, Truro pleaded guilty at Truro Magistrates Court on Wednesday 9 December 2015 to one count of tenancy fraud after moving out of and then illegally subletting a council house.

In a prosecution led by Cornwall Council on behalf of Cornwall Housing Ltd, Mrs Broaders pleaded guilty to the fact that she moved out of the property and sublet it without the landlord’s (Cornwall Housing Limited) consent in breach of an express term of the tenancy, knowing that such conduct was dishonest and a breach of a term of the tenancy.

Miss Snowdon was given a £300 fine and was ordered to pay Cornwall Council’s full investigation and legal costs of £1,200 and a £30 Victim Surcharge.

Cornwall Council’s Corporate Fraud Team and Cornwall Housing Ltd have been working in partnership since August 2014 to tackle tenancy fraud.

Joyce Duffin, Cornwall Council Cabinet Member for Housing and Environment said: “It costs on average £18,000 a year to house a family in temporary accommodation. There is huge pressure on the supply of social housing making it imperative that the housing we do have available goes to people in genuine need of help. It’s totally wrong for people not to be living in housing intended for them and to be potentially illegally profiting from it at the same time.”

Source

16 Feb 2015

Two properties returned so far in Cornwall keys amnesty

We looked at Cornwall's belated adoption of a keys amnesty here. Cornwall Council estimated that as many as 200 Cornwall Council and Cornwall Housing tenancies could be affected.

Well, now we have an update.


Two homes have so far been returned to Cornwall Housing use as a result of a 'key amnesty' programme run by the council.

With a couple of weeks still to go until the end of the amnesty, which gives people who are illegally subletting or not living in their council homes the opportunity to hand back their keys, the operation's hotline has received 69 calls and two properties have been surrendered by tenants

The two month programme runs until 28 February 2015, and allows people to hand back their keys rather than face possible criminal investigation and potential legal action which could ultimately result in a criminal conviction.

The council said: "Every property being used fraudulently stops another household in housing need from accessing that affordable housing. A new home costs on average well over £150,000 to build and there are almost 28,000 households registered on Cornwall Homechoice seeking an affordable home, making it even more important that those committing tenancy fraud do not get away with depriving other households out of the homes they need."

Illegal subletting happens when a council home is let to a tenant and that tenant then moves out and illegally lets the property to someone else – usually at a higher rent.

Not only is this illegal, it prevents much needed homes from being made available to families in genuine need and in addition costs every household in Cornwall money.

Cornwall Council’s Corporate Fraud Team and Cornwall Housing Ltd have been working in partnership since August 2014 to tackle tenancy fraud and, in what is believed to be the first such prosecution in Cornwall under new Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act legislation, a former tenant was convicted of tenancy fraud in December for illegally moving out of and then subletting a council house. The former tenant was given a 12 month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay Cornwall Council’s full investigation and legal costs after admitting moving out of the property and subletting it.

Jane Barlow, managing director of Cornwall Housing, said: “This prosecution shows that this type of activity will not be tolerated by Cornwall Housing Ltd. We have been working in partnership with Cornwall Council’s experienced Corporate Fraud Team and two homes have already been surrendered.
We have seen evidence of how introducing a key amnesty has worked well in other parts of the country. By bringing the issue to the public’s attention, other authorities saw an increase in referrals to its tenancy fraud hotline and we are seeing the same results here. We know that the overwhelming majority of residents live in their homes legally and that they share our commitment to tackling tenancy fraud and I would encourage anyone who suspects someone of committing tenancy fraud to get in touch.”

Joyce Duffin, Cornwall Council Cabinet Member for Housing and Environment said: “It costs on average £18,000 a year to house a family in temporary accommodation. There is huge pressure on the supply of social housing making it imperative that the housing we do have available goes to people in genuine need of help. It’s totally wrong for people not to be living in housing intended for them and to be potentially illegally profiting from it at the same time.”

The initiative was launched in the wake of a change in the law and the introduction of the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 in October 2013, which means people illegally subletting their property can now face a prison sentence of up to two years, a criminal record, or a fine of up to £5,000.

Joyce adds: “I would urge anyone either not living in or illegally sub-letting their council home to get in touch right away. Once the amnesty ends anyone found not to be living in their home or illegally subletting will face the full force of the new powers.”

Anyone who is illegally subletting or is not living in their council home should hand back their keys to the Council’s Corporate Fraud Team, local housing officer or housing office.

Source

16 Dec 2014

Cornwall starts to catch up with illegal sub-letting

Only last month we wrote that news of keys amnesties had filtered through to Cornwall. Now someone there has admitted illegal sub-letting. In the tradition of Cornwall, though, she was given a conditional discharge.

In a first for Cornwall, a woman has been convicted of tenancy fraud for illegally moving out of and then subletting a council house.

Wendy Snowdon (42) formerly of Kinsman Estate, Bodmin pleaded guilty to one count of tenancy fraud.

In a prosecution led by Cornwall Council on behalf of Cornwall Housing Ltd, Miss Snowden admitted that she moved out of the property and sublet it without the landlord’s (Cornwall Housing Limited) consent in breach of an express term of the tenancy, knowing that such conduct amounted to a breach of a term of the tenancy.

The action was taken under new 'Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act legislation'.

Miss Snowdon was given 12 month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay Cornwall Council’s full investigation and legal costs of £1,322.90 and a £15 victim surcharge.

Cornwall Council’s corporate fraud team and Cornwall Housing Ltd have been working in partnership since August 2014 to tackle tenancy fraud and have recently announced that there will be key amnesty in January and February 2015 to give those who are abusing the system the opportunity to come clean and avoid possible prosecution.

Joyce Duffin, Cornwall Council cabinet member for housing and environment, said: “It costs on average £18,000 a year to house a family in temporary accommodation. There is huge pressure on the supply of social housing making it imperative that the housing we do have available goes to people in genuine need of help. It’s totally wrong for people not to be living in housing intended for them and to be potentially illegally profiting from it at the same time.”

Jane Barlow, Managing Director of Cornwall Housing said: “Cornwall Housing has been working in partnership with Cornwall Council’s experienced Corporate Fraud Team and three homes have already been identified that we believe have been illegally sub-let.

"This prosecution shows that this type of activity will not be tolerated by Cornwall Housing Ltd.

"We have announced that we will be running a key amnesty in January and February 2015 as we have seen evidence of how introducing a key amnesty has worked well in other parts of the country. By bringing the issue to the public’s attention, other authorities saw an increase in referrals to its tenancy fraud hotline and we hope to see the same results here as we know that the overwhelming majority of residents live in their homes legally and that they share our commitment to tackling tenancy fraud.

"I would also encourage anyone who suspects someone of committing tenancy fraud to get in touch.”

Source

24 Nov 2014

News of keys amnesties reaches Cornwall

We've written before about the results of keys amnesties in various parts of the country (click on the keys amnesty label at the end of this post). Word of them has now filtered through to Cornwall.

Cornwall Council is giving people commiting tenancy fraud in social housing the chance to hand in their house keys and walk away.

The authority says that Government statistics show the fraud is potentially on the increase, and that as many as 200 Cornwall Council and Cornwall Housing tenancies are affected, leaving those in genuine need of affordable housing out in the cold.

A council spokesman said; "In order to combat those increases a new law, The Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013, came into force in October 2013. This means that tenants committing tenancy fraud in social housing tenancies now risk criminal investigation and prosecution in addition to the risk of losing their tenancy and significant court costs.

"Tenancy fraud mainly occurs as a result of fraudulent applications for housing (waiting list and homelessness applications), fraudulent succession applications, unlawful sub-letting, key-selling, property abandonment, fraudulent “Right to Buy” applications and unauthorised assignments.

"Every property being used fraudulently stops another household in housing need from accessing that affordable housing.

"New homes cost on average well over £150,000 to build and the costs of housing homeless families in temporary accommodation can total up to £18,000 whilst they wait to access the accommodation they need, not to mention what the impacts of being homeless have on those households.

"Additionally there are over 28,000 households registered on Cornwall Homechoice all seeking an affordable home so it makes it even more important that those committing tenancy fraud do not get away with depriving other households out of the homes they need.

"Cornwall Housing and Cornwall Council have always worked hard to prevent tenancy fraud, but with new powers to help us deal with tenancy fraud we are even more determined to identify those tenants and deal with them accordingly.

"Cornwall Council and Cornwall Housing are working in partnership and have a specialist fraud team who will investigate any concerns or reports of tenancy fraud. We have already had recent successes where two properties have been returned to us without the need to pursue a full criminal investigation or to consider taking criminal proceedings.

"This provides the extra benefit of homes being returned quickly without protracted investigations and legal cases and without the additional burdens of high legal costs."

Cornwall Council and Cornwall Housing are running a 'Key Amnesty' from January 1, 2015 to February 28, 2015, allowing tenants who are committing tenancy fraud to end their tenancy, hand back their keys and avoid potential criminal investigation, prosecution proceedings and legal costs.

The spokesman added: "The amnesty is Cornwall Housing and Cornwall Council’s Corporate Fraud Team’s response to the change in the law that means tenants who illegally sublet homes can now face a prison sentence, criminal record and/or a fine of up to £5,000. Our amnesty is a chance for tenants to hand back the keys, avoid these penalties and to give a home to someone who really needs it.

"It also benefits other households in housing need as it means that potentially properties come back much quicker so are available to let sooner, and it means money is saved by avoiding what can be lengthy and expensive investigations and protracted court cases.

"Most of our information about possible tenancy fraud comes from other tenants who are concerned about not seeing their neighbour on a regular basis, or who don’t recognise the person living next to them.

"Reporting those concerns makes a real difference in finding and dealing with people who are abusing their tenancies."

Source

12 Mar 2014

Repeat benefit fraud offender gets suspended sentence

A 62-year-old Newquay woman who received more than £8,000 in benefits to which she was not entitled has been spared an immediate jail term.

Susan Bailey, who was jailed for eight months in 2008 for similar offences, was handed a suspended sentence and curfew when she appeared before magistrates on Thursday.

The court was told her home had been put under surveillance during an investigation by Cornwall Council and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Bailey, who had pleaded not guilty to five offences, was found guilty of all the charges at a trial in January.

She was convicted of making a false statement to the DWP in a telephone call on August 31, 2012, while making a claim for Employment Support Allowance (ESA), by stating she was living alone when in fact she was living with her husband, and of failing to declare her husband or his income on council forms on or about September 6, 2012, September 13, 2012, and January 2, 2013, in respect of claims for housing and council tax benefit.

Kingsley Keate, for the prosecution, said that following her ESA claim Bailey completed housing and council tax benefit forms as a single person living in rented accommodation. She was paid £150 per week as a result.

However, after receiving information that Bailey's husband had not vacated the property, surveillance was undertaken in November and December 2012 and March and April 2013. A vehicle owned by him was seen leaving in the mornings and was parked there in the evening, as well as at weekends, said Mr Keate.

In an interview on May 2, 2013, Bailey claimed she had had no contact with her husband until five weeks previously and said that he had no key to the property – although she admitted later that this was not true.

Mr Keate told the court that the couple had been living together from August 25, 2012, and Bailey's ESA claim on August 31 had been "false from the outset". The total amount of benefits overpaid to her was £8,122.16. Some had now been repaid and a balance remained of £7,480.

Sarah Payne, for the defence, told the court that Bailey did not accept the finding of guilt on the latest offences. Just before the claim was made, her husband had had an affair and moved out. It was only after the investigation that they had been reconciled. He had a key to the garage during their estrangement, as he kept tools there, but the door between the garage and the house was kept locked.

Probation officer Tony Ciocci, in a pre-sentence report, said Bailey had had alcohol and mental health problems, including suicide attempts, but these did not cause her offending behaviour, which he was unable to analyse given her continued "absolute denial" of guilt.

The magistrates imposed a 24-week prison sentence on Bailey, suspended for 12 months, with an 8pm-to-8am nightly curfew for the next three months. They refused a request by Ms Payne that the start of the curfew be delayed to allow Bailey to go on a short break to Greece, as the trip had been booked at a time when she was aware that she might be sent to prison.

She was also ordered to pay £1,995 in costs. The court was told that negotiations were continuing about repaying the money she owed.

5 Mar 2014

Another Cornish benefit thief gets conditional discharge

Magistrates in Cornwall have yet again given a conditional discharge to a benefit thief, this time someone who stole over £24,786 from us.

Shirley Edwards, 52, from Lostwithiel pleaded guilty to offences of making false statements when claiming Housing and Council Tax Benefit in 2009.

It had been identified that when Mrs Edwards had made a claim for benefit in January 2009, she had failed to disclose on the benefit claim form, that she had an ISA containing capital in excess of the limits for receiving means tested benefits and also that she co-owned a property.

After taking into account the early guilty plea, magistrates sentenced Mrs Edwards to a three year conditional discharge.

Mrs Edwards was also ordered to pay the council’s investigation costs of £936.38 - but that actually was the sum total of her punishment. Cornwall Council may proclaim that it operates a ‘zero tolerance’ policy to fraud and corruption, but the magistrates are doing hardly anything to discourage this crime.

The £24,786.87 housing and council tax benefit overpaid as result of Mrs Edwards failing to declare her savings and property has been repaid in full.