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Showing posts with label illegal sub-letting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label illegal sub-letting. Show all posts

14 Feb 2020

Unlawful Profit Order for illegal subletting

A council tenant illegally sublet his Walthamstow flat for five years while living in Warrington with his partner and children.

Oluwajare Adegbuyi was caught illegally subletting the flat in Stocksfield Road following a Waltham Forest council anti-fraud team investigation in partnership with Warrington Borough Council.

Officers discovered the occupier of the Stocksfield Road property was not the rightful tenant; Adegbuyi found to also be registered as the tenant of a council property in Warrington.

At Thames Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, January 23, the defendant claimed he had moved to Warrington to be with his partner and their two children.

He said he had let his aunt live in the flat, and then subsequently let it to other tenants because he was not sure if he would return and did not wish to give up his council property.

Adegbuyi pled guilty to dishonestly sub-letting and the judge imposed an unlawful profit order, compelling him to pay back money he received from subletting the property.

He was fined £130 and ordered to pay back £846. Waltham Forest Council was also awarded full legal costs – Adegbuyi will have to pay in excess of £2,500 in total.

The property has since been returned to the council and made available to house an individual previously on the waiting list.

Cllr Louise Mitchell, cabinet member for housing and homelessness prevention, said: “Illegal subletting is not a victimless crime. It denies homes to people and families who are in genuine need of them. We will always push for the highest penalties in instances of fraud, although the courts will make the final decision.

“This is an excellent example of our housing officers and anti-fraud team working together to ensure the people who live in our properties are the rightful and legal tenants.”

Source

16 Jan 2020

Man committed two social housing frauds

A housing fraudster from Kingswinford who sublet his council home has been handed a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years and a bill of more than £7,000.

Dudley Council successfully brought a case against John David Facer, aged 52, of Keepers Close, who was sentenced at Dudley Magistrates Court on Friday January 10.

Mr Facer was found to be subletting his one-bedroom property for three years while he was living in a property that he had bought in Kidderminster.

After selling the home in Kidderminster and making a profit of £58,000, Mr Facer moved back to Keepers Close and submitted a fraudulent Right to Buy application to purchase the property from Dudley Council.

Had his application been successful, this would have entitled Mr Facer to a discount to the value of £36,250.

However, due to further investigations into the sublet of the property the application was cancelled by the council.

Mr Facer pleaded guilty to subletting his council property, under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud.

Before sentencing District Judge Webster warned Mr Facer he was “close to leaving the court in a van” but he proceeded to sentence Mr Facer to six months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered Mr Facer to complete 240 hours of unpaid work.

Mr Facer will also have to pay back an unlawful profit order of £1,955.68, a victim surcharge of £115 and legal costs of £5,000.

Due to Mr Facer being unwilling to relinquish the tenancy voluntarily, the council are in the process of recovering possession of the property, in order that it can be allocated to an eligible applicant who is in need of social housing. The possession case is due to be heard at the end of January 2020.

Councillor Laura Taylor, Dudley's cabinet member for housing, communities and residents' welfare, said:
Mr Facer’s actions will have deprived someone in genuine need of housing and once again we are showing people that falsifying housing applications is a serious offence. I would remind anyone who may be considering falsifying a housing application that we will take legal action against people who commit housing fraud.
Source

2 Jan 2020

Council tenant in illegal sub-letting and right to buy frauds

A council tenant who had applied to purchase his rented home through the Right to Buy scheme has been convicted of illegally subletting it to his children.

Waltham Forest Council tenant, Uwe Werner, 55, applied to buy his Leytonstone property through the Right to Buy scheme, entitling him to a £108,000 discount.

However, the council’s Corporate Anti-Fraud Team established Werner was not living in the Sansom Road property but was in fact renting in Braintree, Essex.

Werner had been subletting the Leytonstone property to his two adult children over a three-and-a-half-year period between January 2015 and June 2018.

Werner was convicted at Snaresbrook Crown Court of illegally subletting the property and handed a two-year suspended prison sentence.

In mitigation Werner explained that his circumstances had changed in 2014 when his work led him to move to Braintree with his wife and youngest children, and so he made the improper decision to illegally sublet the Sansom Road property to his adult children, making a profit of £5226.00.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge Pounder said: “You were originally a legitimate tenant, but your criminal liability is you took a decision which was the wrong decision.”

Judge Pounder also imposed an Unlawful Profit Order for the full amount by which he profited from subletting his council property.

Werner must now vacate the address or the council will instigate civil proceedings to terminate the tenancy.

A council spokesperson said: “Waltham Forest Council is committed to fighting corruption and dishonesty. Combatting tenancy fraud is high on our agenda as we work to ensure that our properties are made available for those who have a genuine need for them.

“We hope this case sends a clear message – we will fully investigate any suspected cases of tenancy fraud and those found guilty may be required to vacate their homes as Mr Werner will now have to.

“This property will now be used to provide a decent roof over the head of a new family, giving them the security and stability they need to make the most of their life chances in Waltham Forest.”

Source

30 Dec 2019

Illegal subletting finally resolved

A council house that was illegally sublet has been taken back by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council following a court ruling.

The council received allegations about the property in Hatfield in June 2017 and began to investigate, before starting possession proceedings in April 2018.

The tenant listed at the property, Mr Steane, was found to not spend any nights there, while another person was living there and paying him rent.

Mr Steane was found to have breached his tenancy in subletting the house illegally, and the court made an order allowing the council to take back possession of the property, as well as ordering Mr Steane to pay back the rent arrears he had accumulated.

The council's corporate director Simone Russell said: "With his actions Mr Steane deliberately defrauded the council. We take a hard line with people who illegally sublet and use the system for their own gain."

Source

19 Dec 2019

The importance of housing fraud

CIPFA writes

Housing is a fundamental service that UK local authorities have a responsibility to provide.

Councils across the UK offer social housing options for local people based on a variety of factors, ranging from financial strains related to unemployment to above-average rents in urban areas.

For the most vulnerable in society, this public service can be a lifesaver in the most literal sense.

Unfortunately, as with all public services, the housing sector is not immune to fraud and other financial crimes. People can exploit the public housing system, depriving councils of funding by illegitimately participating in state programmes, making those in need worse off.

Fortunately, counter-fraud efforts in council housing are proving effective. The latest iteration of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accounting (CIPFA)’s Fraud and Corruption Tracker (CFaCT) shows that the number of fraudulent cases is decreasing – UK local authorities detected and/or prevented 3,632 instances of housing fraud in 2018/19, a decline of roughly 20% from the previous year and the second year of decline since 2016/17.

Of course all this shows is that detection is decreasing. It may not reflect the underlying level of fraud.

Over the past year, they prevented 652 and 826 cases of Right to Buy and illegal sublet frauds respectively. Furthermore, housing fraud represented 54% of the total value of fraud prevented by local authorities in 2018/19, while making up only 5% of the total estimated number of fraud cases.

While the numbers of Right to Buy and illegal sublet fraud cases declined, ‘other’ types of housing fraud, which includes succession and false applications, held steady at approximately 2,150 cases.

It’s worth noting that the way authorities record the income lost from housing fraud can vary. They may include the cost of putting up a family in a bed and breakfast for several months or they may include the cost of replacing a property entirely.

However, although making these calculations is certainly challenging, they provide a helpful snapshot of local authorities’ effectiveness at tackling this problem.

In recent years, local authorities have stepped up their counter-fraud work in social housing. This has had a big impact, given the low rates of turnover in tenancies in the current social housing stock.

The screening of Right to Buy applications by councils protects valuable housing stock from being sold at a discount to ineligible individuals. This measure, paired with tenancy audits and proactive exercises to detect illegal subletting and unused social housing, is tackling abuse in the sector.

By recovering properties from ineligible tenants, councils can then reallocate housing to those in legitimate need. These controls, along with more stringent checks on all applications, are preventing fraud in the housing stock and reducing the overall level of housing fraud.

It’s a strategy that CIPFA thinks has worked very well – and the figures tell us that councils’ counter-fraud strategies for housing are shifting trends in the right direction.

At CIPFA, we believe our role is to help councils put in place the proper preventative measures, controls, training and governance structures to stop fraud from happening at all. There’s still much to be done across all counter-fraud areas, but this year’s CFaCT report gives us a snapshot of the real progress that has been made on council housing counter-fraud efforts.

Source

28 Oct 2019

How Birmingham is tackling social housing frauds

This explores behind the recent revelation that sixty-four Birmingham homes had been recovered in a crackdown on housing fraud.

Amidst a housing crisis in the city with 13,000 people on the waiting list including around 3,000 families in temporary accommodation, every single home has become an extremely precious commodity. So it is scandalous that scores of perfectly good council houses are being abused every year - some just abandoned, while others are utilised for criminal enterprises such as cannabis farms.

But since 2010 the city council has ploughed significant investment into tackling the issue, with investigators using everything from light bulbs to library cards to detect fraud.

"It's always been there," said Neil Farquharson group auditor at the council, "But we have become more and more sophisticated and put more resources into tackling the problem.

"We realised how valuable a council property is, the amount of people we have got in temporary accommodation is growing and growing, therefore the more effort we can put into recovering properties and stopping people getting tenancies fraudulently, the better. Is it getting worse? It's difficult to say, but the housing crisis in the city is only going to exacerbate the problem."

In the past, illegal sub-letting grabbed the headlines being a major problem in London where property prices are notoriously high. It also prompted the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act in 2013. But that issue is 'rare' in the second-city where 'non-residency' is the most common type of housing fraud. This can often occur when people meet new partners and spend time living with them instead, or maybe move to a different part of the city or country for work.

Typically, tenants will also be in receipt of housing benefit which means they can stay away knowing their rent is covered. Is it naivety or an intentional abuse of the system?

"It's a mixture of both," said Mr Farquharson, "A lot of the cases we get are because a person's personal life has changed. There is a degree of naivety but also some people fully know what is expected of them and they will go ahead anyway."

Right to Buy, the government scheme which gives council tenants of three years or more significant discounts off the purchase price of a home, has also created an 'incentive' to obtain a council property. It has driven fraudulent housing applications whereby people may lie about the make-up of their household, falsely claiming there are six people living in a one-bedroom flat when there are only two, for instance.

Then there are the fraudulent housing applications themselves, when people will purport to have less than the £16,000 capital threshold which would render them ineligible. At the more extreme end of the scale, homes have been completely abused and used to grow drugs on an industrial scale.

"You will get cannabis farms that's one of the problems, that has been the case in Birmingham," Mr Farquharson lamented.

So how does the council go about tackling the problem? Partly, there is a reliance on tenant's neighbours reporting suspected misuse of a property. But over the years the authority has also developed a 'pioneering' anti-fraud data warehouse. It is essentially a mega-system which captures all of the data across the council to 'get a picture of a person' including council tax records, benefits records, licensing records and even library card forms.

"If we look at a housing application and somebody says they are living at an address in a particular part of the city we can say 'well actually according to your library card you don't live at that address, and according to your benefit records there's another inconsistency' so straight away it identifies anomalies," Mr Faquharson said.

It has become an incredibly efficient tool allowing for 'real-time matching' of information within 24 hours of a new housing application. The task then is for investigators to build up enough evidence to reclaim a property, which can take anywhere between three to 18 months.

Mr Farquharson said: "We speak to neighbours and say we haven't seen that person in the property for a long time. We have also got the power to request utility providers to tell us how much gas and electricity a person has used in a given period.

"We use industry averages as well, and can say 'your usage suggests you have had one light bulb on for the last two years, don't you put the heating on, the cooker on, the television on? So we build a case of evidence."

In some cases, the information is sufficient to cancel housing benefits and the prospect of a backdated bill is enough to cause tenants to surrender the keys without fuss. In other instances they may fight it.

Figures suggest that the fraud team is now getting ahead of the problem. While the number of homes being recovered is declining from 87 in 2017/18 to 64 last year, and just shy of 30 so far this year, the amount of cancelled applications is going in the other direction. There were 152 applications stopped before letting in 2017/18, increasing to 212 last year, while there have been more than 400 already in the current financial year.

High-profile results over the years, have also helped highlight the issue of housing fraud. Among them was Sonia Hunter who was awarded a 70 per cent discount on her Right to Buy purchase of 45 Attenborough Close, but failed to declare that she owned a home in Court Lane, Erdington. In 2014 she was given a 10-week prison sentence suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay the council £23,545 through the the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).

In the same year concerns were raised about senior council housing officer Zara Danyaal, from Acocks Green. An investigation established she used fake identities and personal information to submit and process six fraudulent housing applications between 2011 and 2013.

Danyaal was jailed in June 2016 for three years - 30 months for one count of housing fraud and six months for two offences relating to job references. She was also ordered to repay £20,000. Her other Samara Malik, who was not employed by the council but awarded one of tenancies, was sentenced to ten months for one count of housing fraud after supplying false information.

Then there was Mbarak Awdah Abdallah who was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment - having already been jailed for another offence - and ordered to repay £18,990.30. He had gained the tenancy of 4 Milston Close in Druids Heath, after claiming a 'landlord' had ordered him to vacate his home at 191 Chinn Brook Road, Yardley Wood - a property, which it transpired Abdallah owned himself and had been renting out.

"If you are committing housing fraud we are getting more and more sophisticated with our detection methods, we will find you and there is legislation there that means we can prosecute you," said Mr Farquharson.

"To the members of the public, social housing fraud isn't something we should tolerate, we shouldn't be denying people who genuinely deserve social housing. If you believe somebody isn't using their property as their sole main residence, you should report it."

Source

27 Sep 2019

64 Birmingham homes recovered in fraud crackdown

Dozens of Birmingham homes have been recovered and hundreds of housing applications cancelled due to fraud, a report has revealed.

It comes on the back of a warning the city council faces a £4m black hole by the end of the year if the homelessness crisis continues and the authority has to keep forking out to put families up in bed and breakfasts. In 2018/19 the council's corporate fraud team recovered 64 homes worth an estimated £6m in housing stock.

They also cancelled 212 housing applications prior to letting and stopped two Right to Buy applications.

The council's annual fraud report stated that homes were recovered when they were 'not being used as intended' such as when a false application had been made or the property had been illegally sub-let.

Council auditor Neil Farquharson said: "There are obvious social benefits in ensuring that only those with the greatest need are allocated social housing, but there is also a real financial saving from preventing and/or stopping social housing fraud, particularly in respect of providing temporary accommodation, and losing valuable housing stock through fraudulent Right to Buy applications."

The corporate fraud team also investigates fraud relating to its council tax reduction scheme and council tax exemptions. They made £559,534 worth of adjustments to council tax last year. Additionally they identified £858,202 worth of Housing Benefit overpayments.

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10 Sep 2019

Council tax fraud and illegal sub-letting

Falsely claiming the Government's single person discount is the third most prevalent type of fraud in the UK, figures show.

This is where a person claims to live in a single-person household in order to receive a Council Tax discount from their local authority.

In the 2017/18 financial year, £15.8million was lost to this type of fraud - money that could have been used to support other services and individuals within the community.

The research, carried out by fraud prevention service Cifas, also showed that adults in London were twice as likely to consider falsely claiming a Single Person Discount on Council Tax as 'reasonable', as opposed to respondents in the East Midlands, West Midlands or South East.

These figures are being used as part of the Cifas 'Faces of Fraud' campaign, which aims to challenge those seemingly harmless behaviours that are, in fact, illegal. It said the awareness campaign - which has been trialled in Harrow Council, London - has so far saved the local authority £3.6million in lost revenue.

Fern Silverio, head of housing benefits for Harrow Council, said: "Like other Councils, Harrow is under pressure to maximise its income, particularly in the face of recent funding cuts. Our partnership has helped us keep fraudsters on their toes, at the same as future-proofing our own validation techniques."

In addition to Single Person Discount, unlawful subletting also remains a key housing fraud issue for local authorities.

The seemingly ‘victimless’ crime is estimated to have cost local authorities over £216million in the 2017/18 financial year- including fraud on right to buy.

Unlawful subletting in councils occurs when individuals let out their council housing without the permission of the council, meaning that in times of high demand for social housing, those in need may be denied the housing they require due to a seeming lack of available housing.

However, it is a criminal offence in the UK and can lead to criminal prosecution and the loss of the individual’s home.

Kevin Campbell, deputy head of Internal Audit and Anti Fraud from Waltham Forest Local Authority, said: "Council housing is in huge demand, and when a tenant’s circumstances change - for example, where they may have married and moved in with a partner - a council property is vulnerable to subletting.

"Council tenants do not want to relinquish their tenancies, as they are aware they may never obtain a council property again. Due to extremely high private rental charges in the area, by subletting a council property at a similar market rate to privately-owned properties, the council tenant will make a huge profit.

"Subletting has a huge impact on the Borough and local community, as the Council is unable to offer these properties to people in genuine need."

Mike Haley, at Cifas, added: "Unlawful subletting and fraudulent housing claims put huge financial pressure on local authorities and, more importantly, it means that families are missing out on the opportunity of a much-needed home.

"The consequences of this type of fraud are very serious indeed, and could result in a criminal conviction and a prison sentence. I would urge anyone thinking of falsely claiming housing benefit to consider the real impact this can have on their future as well as that of the community at large."

Source

1 Aug 2019

Councils' fraud team stops nearly £4.5m frauds

Nearly £4.5million in tenancy and Right to Buy fraud has been stopped in Ipswich and East Suffolk in the last year, shock new figures reveal.

In Ipswich, 14 Right to Buy applications were halted, preventing £969,598 being lost, while £1.7m was saved in tenancy fraud after eight council properties were recovered and nine applications prevented from those unsuitably attempting to claim a home.

In East Suffolk, 20 fraudulent Right to Buy applications were stopped saving £1,256,025 while £465,000 in tenancy fraud was identified.

Siobhan Martin, who heads up the joint team across the two authorities, said: "Our work is all about supporting legitimate people who are really deserving - hardworking genuine people. It's about identifying, evidencing and prosecuting those people who are abusing the system.

"Paying council tax is challenging for some people so we need to show what worth we are giving back [by stopping fraudulent activity] and ensuring value for money."

Among some of the instances behind the fraudulent activity are council house tenants sub-letting their property or money for Right to Buy coming from suspicious sources flagging up potential money laundering concerns.

The team also cracks down in other fraud areas such as disabled facility grants, improper blue badge applications and single person council tax discounts.

The team is part of a national co-ordination network, having seen instances where tenants have been sub-letting their Ipswich council house while living in another part of the country.

Mrs Martin said: "Where we see direct results there is also important information sharing with other organisations in other areas. It might be any one piece of information that can be the key."

Often tenancy fraud can be an indicator of other offences such as abuses of other benefits or drug operations, according to Mrs Martin.

Source

29 Jul 2019

Council tenant fined £100k & evicted for renting out flat

A council tenant has been ordered to pay a record £100,000 for sub-letting his central London flat through Airbnb as councils in the capital struggle to cope with the booming market in short-term online lettings.

Toby Harman, 37, had been advertising his “cosy studio apartment in Victoria” since 2013 with amenities including a hot tub and had more than 300 reviews.

...

Last year Westminster successfully recovered 24 social housing properties from fraudsters meaning they can now be allocated to residents in need of a new home.

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P.S. Westminster Council said it was currently investigating at least 1,500 properties in the borough for short-term letting.

5 Jun 2019

Sub-letting tenant applied for right to buy discount

A Plymouth Community Homes tenant has been convicted of a £40,000 fraud in a landmark prosecution.

Adrian Pengilley, aged 43, applied to purchase his former council home under the Right to Buy scheme while illegally sub-letting the property.

He moved out and pocketed the rent from the tenant, Plymouth Crown Court heard.

PCH said that his fraud had denied a needy or vulnerable family from moving into his home – at a huge cost to accommodating them in bed and breakfast.

It is the first case of so-called Right to Buy fraud brought by Plymouth City Council.

Pengilley, a council and PCH tenant for 14 years, stood to benefit from a £39,600 discount on the property’s market value under the scheme – though the sale never actually went through.

Handing him unpaid work, a judge praised the council for bringing the prosecution.

Judge Robert Linford fold Pengilley: “The message needs to get out that it is a criminal offence to behave in the dishonest way which you did.”

Pengilley pleaded guilty to fraud between March 2016 and September 2017. He also admitted sub-letting the property between April 2016 and May 2018.

Christopher Cuddihee, for the council, said Pengilley had asked to purchase his home in Cheriton Close, West Park. But, he added, he moved out and sub-let the property.

Mr Cuddihee said that it meant he was no longer eligible for the Right to Buy scheme.

The barrister said that council investigators looked at his bills and social media accounts and spoke to neighbours to establish the defendant had moved out.

Mr Cuddihee said that property should have been available to vulnerable and needy families in need of social housing. He added that the council would spend thousands on placing the homeless in bed and breakfast accommodation.

Jason Beal, for Pengilley, said the sale process under Right to Buy took longer than his client had anticipated.

He said that because of his history, Pengilley was not going to get a mortgage to buy a home.

Mr Beal added that the defendant and his partner had debts of about £15,000 of debts between them.

Judge Linford handed Pengilley a 12-month community order with 160 hours of unpaid work and ten days of probation’s Rehabilitation Activity Requirement. He must also pay £750 towards the costs of the prosecution.

Cllr Sally Haydon, Cabinet member for Customer Focus and Community Safety, said: "Fraud will not be tolerated in Plymouth, especially when it attempts to deny innocent people of something they really need. Social housing is an essential community asset and with waiting lists at an all time high, it is not for people to make money out of. I welcome today's verdict and hope that it stands as a reminder that we will not be afraid to prosecute those who try and cheat the system."

Source with picture

15 May 2019

Polish woman illegally let social housing

Magistrates have ordered a social housing tenant to repay thousands of pounds of rent she received by illegally subletting the Banbury property.

Rogue landlady Justyna Koczela, 43, of Zaulek Wisniowy, Poland was ordered to pay £6,254.90, comprising a fine, unlawful profit order, costs, and a victim surcharge.

Meanwhile the family who innocently rented the house are waiting to be rehoused.

A Cherwell District Council spokesman said: “A Banbury family is being supported into new accommodation after their former landlady was convicted of illegally renting out social housing".

The offence began in November 2017 when a member of the family rented the property in good faith from Koczela, who assured them that she was the owner. The residence is in fact the property of social landlord Sanctuary Housing.

Graeme Kane, Cherwell’s chief operating officer, said: “This conviction will leave people in no doubt that we will act to protect the district’s social housing stock for the people who really need it.

“The tenants are the real victims in this case. They had moved into the property in good faith and have had to endure considerable disruption through no fault of their own. I am pleased that we have been able to allocate a new home to them through the housing register.”

The defendant has now moved out of the country and did not appear in court.

When the tenants were made aware that they were living in an illegally sublet property they were eager to do the right thing and promptly contacted the council and the police for advice. They are expected to move into their new home in the coming fortnight.

Source

9 May 2019

Ipswich woman must repay £93k after illegally sub-letting council house

An Ipswich woman who was jailed for illegally sub-letting her council home and then buying it at a large discount has been ordered to repay more than £93,000 to Ipswich Borough Council.

Before Ipswich Crown Court on Wednesday, May 8, for a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act via a prison video link was Janice George, 60, who was jailed for ten months in December.

The court heard that George had lied to Ipswich Borough Council by falsely claiming she had lived at the property in Ulster Avenue, Ipswich, for five years and had used the right to buy scheme to purchase a £70,000 home for just £21,000 - a 70% discount - in 2015.

She was in fact living with a partner in Wallace Road and renting the Ulster Avenue flat to others for up to £450 per month in that time.

Between 2010 and 2015, George had received an estimated £27,000 in rent and letting agent fees.

Richard Kelly, prosecuting, said George's benefit from her offending was £93,500 and she had assets of £96,800.

Judge Rupert Overbury made a confiscation order in the sum of £93,500 to be paid as compensation to Ipswich Borough Council.

Source

11 Apr 2019

Sentence on sub-letting solicitor upheld

A man caught subletting his council home in Lewisham while working in Birmingham as a solicitor has had his criminal sentence upheld after a failed appeal. (h/t Cornerstone)

Rahand Raza, 39, appealed the 12-week sentence, which was suspended for two years, after he was prosecuted in Bexley Magistrates' Court in May of last year.

He was living in Birmingham when he spent over three years illegally subletting his council home.

Kevin Sheehan, executive director of customer services, said: "Social housing is vital for those people who are in genuine housing need and we will always prosecute those who try to cheat the system."

The judge handed him a suspended jail sentence under the Prevention of Social Housing Act and Mr Raza was ordered to pay legal costs of £5,000.

He also had to pay back his profits of £3,496.

Lewisham Home’s Tenancy Audit Team became aware of the subletting allegations when people were seen moving out of the home.

It was later found that Mr Raza applied for the "right to buy" scheme while others lived in the flat.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has been made aware of the conviction.

Source

25 Mar 2019

Man jailed for illegal sub-letting

A pub landlord who cost local taxpayers almost £250,000 by subletting his council house has been jailed for two years.

John Bristow had a property provided by the borough for more than 12 years even though he was living and working at The Bakers Arms in Upper Stratton.

As well as depriving a needy family of a home – costing taxpayers £219,000 – the 66-year-old even let it out, making profit on the rent.

And he told the woman to whom he was subletting to lie to the council about why she was living there and not to register her name and address with them for anything.

When he was questioned he said he had kept hold of the Penhill house for his retirement, or in case his relationship or pub tenancy collapsed.

Harry Ahuja, prosecuting, told how Bristow was given an temporary tenancy at a house on Abbey View Road, Moredon, from August 2003 to November 2005.

He was then given a secure tenancy for a two-bed house on Imber Road, Penhill, but by then he was living at a pub. In March 2005 he and partner Kathy Kelly got the tenancy of The Bakers Arms on Beechcroft Road, where they still live. But he kept the house until the council took it back in October 2017 after an investigation.

And it was discovered that in 2011 he had sublet the house to a woman charging her £100 a week while he was paying the council £60, raising to £80 a week. Over the six-year period it could be proved he had a tenant in the house Mr Ahuja said he had made a profit of £3,699.

The court was told that it could not be established whether he had anyone else living there before her.

When he was questioned by the council he initially claimed he had been living at the two homes with his sons, even though his partner told investigators otherwise.

As a result of the extra inquiries he said the costs to the council of the case totalled £20,148, making the total loss to them nearly £240k.

Bristow pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and deception between April 1, 2005, and May 30, 2017.

Susan Cavendar, defending, said the offences were caused by him trying to seek stability for his family. After his marriage collapsed in the early noughties he wanted a home for him and his children and was never sure how long the pub job would last. “He thought if he held on to it if he would retire there or the job would end and the tenancy go,” she said.

Jailing him Judge Robert Pawson said “This country is going through a period of almost unprecedented austerity. In housing terms it doesn’t have property to hand over to someone like you to profit from. The waiting list at the start was 15,000 people, the waiting list at the end was 3,000 people.

“As a result people on the emergency housing list have had to be housed by the council at a conservative estimate that costs a little more than £18,000 per annum. And that loss of money, and it is a loss of money has to be made up by council tax payers in the Swindon area.

“It comes down to your dishonesty and your selfishness. You are remorseful. This went on for 12 years. You were only sorry when you were caught.”

Swindon Borough Council has welcomed the outcome of the jailing of Bristow.

Councillor Cathy Martyn, cabinet member for housing and public safety, said: “I hope it sends out a strong warning that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated.

“The welfare of our tenants is a top priority for us. We will not allow people to take advantage and abuse the system in this way. Mr Bristow’s actions cost the council almost a quarter of a million pounds and he took advantage of other people who were in actual need of a home by denying them that opportunity, preventing them from accessing housing to which they were entitled.

“We work closely with the police and I can say with confidence that people engaging in fraudulent activity will always be caught in the end.”

Source with pictures

15 Feb 2019

Light sentence for illegal sub-letting

A housing association tenant has been fined for sub letting his home.

Edwin William Peacock appeared at Barrow Magistrates Court in the first prosecution of its kind in South Lakeland.

Magistrates were told Peacock, 53, was the tenant of an SLH property in Windermere, but he lived in a house in Oxenholme.

Suspicions were raised when Peacock applied to purchase the SLH property under the Right to Buy scheme. Investigations found that Peacock had a mortgage on his residence in Oxenholme, that he lived there and that utility bills for the SLH property were in the name of another person.

Peacock faced one charge of sub-letting.He was fined £466 and ordered to pay £1,140 costs and a £46 victim surcharge.

Katie Booth, SLDC’s corporate anti-fraud officer, said: “Sub-letting in this way deprives social housing to deserving residents and costs South Lakeland District Council money in providing Bed and Breakfast accommodation to unhoused tenants.

"There is currently a 12-year waiting list for properties of this type in Windermere and offences like this increases waiting time for prospective tenants. People who could otherwise be housed lose out because of fraudsters sub-letting.

“If allegations or evidence of such behaviour comes to light we will investigate and prosecute. We hope this sentence will send out a warning that this type of behaviour is not acceptable and could lead to serious consequences for the perpetrators.”

Alison Kinnon, director of customers and communities at South Lakes Housing, said: “There are almost 3,000 people in South Lakeland who need an affordable home, so it is absolutely right that we tackle those who fraudulently abuse this much-needed asset.

"As this case has proved, people who think that they are getting away with it get found out in the end. We are working closely with South Lakeland District Council to investigate other people who are suspected of committing tenancy fraud.”

Now other housing association tenants in South Lakeland have been warned that sub-letting their properties to others is illegal and could land them in court.

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13 Feb 2019

Light sentence for illegal sub-letting

A Cheltenham man has been fined nearly £500 for illegally sub-letting his flat.

John Stevens, 55, had been a long time tenant of his Newton Road social housing flat, but moved out to live with his girlfriend and did not tell the landlord.

At the same time, Stevens rented the flat out to a friend, illegally sub-letting the Cheltenham Borough Homes (CBH) property.

Following a tip-off, Stevens was visited by CBH officers and terminated his tenancy on the flat shortly after, but not before his crime was brought to light.

CBH prosecuted him under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013.

Stevens told Cheltenham Magistrates' Court that he thought he was helping a friend by allowing them to stay at his flat.

The magistrates took his guilty plea and means into account ahead of handing out their sentence. He was fined £300 and ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge and £50 towards prosecution costs.

The flat was quickly re-let to new tenants who had been waiting for a property to become available.

Caroline Walker, head of community services at CBH, said: “Illegal sub-letting of social houses prevents people who genuinely need them from getting access to homes. This is a good result for us, not least because it helped to give a home to someone but also because it sends a strong message to people considering sub-letting. We will find out and you will be prosecuted.”

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9 Jan 2019

Illegal sub-letting brings heavy penalties

A "despicable" fraudster must pay £42,000 after illegally subletting her council flat for more than 10 years.

Pfavai McNab, a hair and beauty salon owner from Southampton, received a two-year suspended prison sentence at Woolwich Crown Court after she was convicted of two charges under the Fraud Act in relation to the three-bedroom flat in Plumstead.

Known as Pfavai Chidavaenzi when she obtained the property in Barnfield Gardens in 1996, she subsequently married and moved to Southampton.

In 2017, under her former name, she submitted an application under the Right to Buy scheme to purchase the property from Greenwich Council, declaring it as her only and principal home, for which she would have received a £103,900 discount off the purchase price.

Council checks revealed she had married in April 2000, was living under her married name of McNab and had purchased a home in Southampton.

Further checks revealed she had left her daughter occupying the flat since at least 2007 and had also set up her own hair and beauty salon on the south coast.

As well as the suspended prison sentence, McNab must also undertake 100 hours of unpaid work.

She was also ordered to pay the council £35,000 within two years relating to the financial loss suffered by the council for having to provide emergency accommodation due to flat not being available for others in genuine need.

She must further pay the council's legal costs of £6,920 within six months. If she fails to do so, she will go to prison for one year.

Councillor Christine Grice, cabinet member for finance and resources, said: “Mrs McNab was caught out by her own greed when she applied to buy the council property, and her many years of not residing at the three-bedroom flat were identified. She has evaded prison. However, I hope that the £42,000 she now has to pay Greenwich will be a good reminder of her despicable actions.”

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29 Nov 2018

Woman fined for subletting housing association flat

A woman who illegally sublet her housing association flat while living abroad has been forced to pay back nearly £10,000 she made in profit.

Esperance Hakizimana had been renting out her flat in Rose Hill since April 2014 while living in the Netherlands.

The 42-year-old was caught after an investigation by Oxford City Council and Greensquare Housing Association.

The council brought a prosecution for unlawful letting of social housing and last Tuesday at Oxford Magistrates' Court she pleaded guilty.

Hakizimana was fined £500 and ordered to pay back unlawful profit of £9,768.68, with £3000 of it to be paid within seven days. She was also ordered to pay costs of £480.

City council board member for finance Ed Turner said: "This is another example that shows the effectiveness of the Fraud Investigation Team in clamping down on fraudulent subletting. By working with Greensquare Housing, the team uncovered and prosecuted the person who has committed this fraud, and who has now paid the price. This also means that a much-needed social home can be re-let to someone who is really entitled to it. Social housing tenants need to remember and adhere to rules on sub-letting."

Since its creation in 2015 the fraud investigation team has prevented fraud losses and generated revenue of more than £12m for the council.

A light sentence considering the length of time this woman denied accommodation to someone who needed it.

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10 Oct 2018

Tenant admits illegal sub-letting & 'right to buy' fraud

A father has admitted fraudulently trying to buy his Kilburn council flat under the government’s right-to-buy scheme – despite having lived in Watford for five years.

Ryan Cooper lived in Camden Council’s Casterbridge block in Abbey Road for more than a decade.

He was given the lease to the council flat in 2001, but ceased living there in October 2013.

At Highbury Corner magistrates’ court Cooper pleaded guilty to two charges and he will be sentenced at Blackfriars Crown Court on a date to be determined.

Along with the right-to-buy fraud, Cooper was convicted of illegally sub-letting the Abbey Road flat for five years between 2013 and 2018 after he moved to out to live with his wife and young son.

Camden Council has also made an unlawful profit order in hope of recovering £36,000 – the estimated difference between what he made in rent and what he was paying the council – from Cooper.

The defendant spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth and to enter his guilty pleas.

Prosecuting on behalf of Camden Council, Edward Sarkis told magistrates: “Under the fraud act, you are looking at medium-to-high culpability here.

“The second offence saw Mr Cooper submit a right-to-buy application. The application should be from someone who had actually been living in the property, but Mr Cooper had been living in Watford with his wife and child.”

Mr Sarkis added: “Having had the lease since 2001, he would have been in line for a considerable discount under right-to-buy.”

Defending, Jeffrey Lewis said; “Obviously Mr Cooper should get credit for his guilty pleas. He also handed back the keys to the property – Camden did not have to seek a possession order.

“At the end of the day we are talking about a man of good character, and I hope to prove this whether in this court or another.”

As he bailed Cooper to appear at Blackfriars Crown Court for sentencing, the lead sitting magistrate said: “We are talking about potential loss to Camden Council, but more properly the loss to the person on the council housing waiting list who should have been in that property.”

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