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

25 Jul 2017

Newcastle Council brings first sub-letting prosecution!

A rogue tenant who made £29,000 renting out her council flat to students while living in China has been ordered to pay back the cash.

Lin Zhao qualified for a council house in 2005 and paid £66 per week to rent a three-bed flat in Clarence House from Newcastle City Council.

However, it has since emerged the professor was living in China and illegally sub-letting the property to students, pocketing £28,945 in rent over four-and-a-half years of a six year absence from the address.

She had converted the living room into a fourth bedroom, and between June 2008 and December 2014 30 individuals - mainly students - had lived at the property and paid rent.

When council officers caught up with Zhao and her scheme unravelled she tried to lie and claim the tenants were friends’ children and didn’t pay rent.

However, Newcastle Crown Court heard students living at the property told officers the truth and analysis of Ms Zhao’s bank records showed she had been pocketing the difference in rent.

Zhao admitted one count of illegal sub-letting and a further count of failing to disclose information under the fraud act.

Alex Burns, defending, said Ms Zhao had not expected to be away so long but had been caring for her ill father before her mother then took ill. He said Zhao had not been living the high life as a consequence of the sub-let and she was concerned at the impact on her ability to work as a professor following conviction.

Judge Deborah Sherwin at Newcastle Crown Court sentenced Zhao to 15 months imprisonment suspended for two years after she admitted two counts of fraud. The council had frozen funds held by Zhao in an ISA account after earlier court proceedings and Zhao has formally agreed to pay to the council the £28,945 that she had profited by the enterprise.

The prosecution is a first for the authority who have said they will not allow people to make a profit from council houses.

Councillor Jane Streather, cabinet member for housing, said: “Illegally sub-letting a council property is a very serious offence which carries a very heavy penalty if convicted as highlighted by this case. This is the first time we have prosecuted for a sub-letting offence and we will be doing more of these prosecutions so the message is clear; if someone is sub-letting they should stop now before they get caught and its costs them dearly. The council provides housing to meet people’s housing needs and not for them to make a profit.”

Wake up, Newcastle City Council!


26 Jun 2017

Team stops £4.3m frauds in Suffolk

An anti-fraud team for three Suffolk authorities has stopped more than £4.3 million of public money being lost to fraud in the last 12 months, latest figures have shown. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

A dedicated team of five full-time specialists work across Ipswich, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney councils, investigating suspicious activity in Right to Buy applications, blue badge and bus pass misuse, social housing and housing benefits and council tax fraud among other activities.

After being formed in May 2015, the team reported it had stopped more than £3.2m of fraudulent activity in its first year across the three councils, and has now reported it has prevented £4.3m for the last 12 months.

Siobhan Martin, head of internal audit for the three councils, said: “It’s really making sure the money is there for the purpose it is there for, and providing value for money. We have a zero tolerance approach to fraud, and we do really mean it because there are people losing out from this. We are here to provide a public service the public are paying for, so it is about building public confidence.”

Among some of the issues identified were people using false identification, applying for Right to Buy discounts when they were unable to demonstrate how they could pay a mortgage or were otherwise ineligible, sub-letting council houses and misusing bus passes and blue badges.

In Ipswich 29 Right to Buy applications were stopped, saving nearly £2m alone. A further 21 were stopped in Waveney saving a further £2m from being lost.

Mrs Martin said the figures did not necessarily mean more fraud was happening, but said that a greater network of contacts, more experience and the addition of another investigator has helped the team prevent more fraud from happening.

It has now been approached by other authorities and agencies to help in their own work, but reiterated its zero tolerance message to would-be fraudsters.

Mrs Martin added: “We will take them down and we will prosecute if necessary.”

A spokeswoman from Suffolk police said it worked closely with partner agencies, including the fraud team, and worked alongside it to curb any criminal activity found during investigations.

To report suspicious activity confidentially call 01473 433999.


2 Jun 2017

Nurse struck off for social housing fraud

A nurse who bribed a corrupt Southwark Council housing officer to get a council flat in Peckham has been thrown out of the profession, after a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing. (h/t tenancyfraud)

Theresa Okondunjokanma was jailed for eighteen months last September for council housing fraud, after submitting a series of bogus documents, including birth certificates for other people’s children.

The NMC panel heard on May 26 that her dodgy documents were accepted with a £2,000 bribe by Southwark Council officer Trudy Ali-Balogun, in May 2004.

Ali-Balogun, 55, was jailed for five years in May 2016, after she pushed through 24 fraudulent applications for council homes between 2003 and 2005. Ali-Balogun made at least £20,000 in backhanders, predominantly helping the Nigerian community in London obtain the public housing.

Okondunjokanma’s fraudulent application cost the taxpayer an estimated £100,000 and she was charged on three counts of fraud. Having illegally gained the Peckham council house, she profited by subletting it to her sister in 2009.

Okondunjokanma was not present at last week’s panel hearing, and submitted evidence via written statements to the NMC.

NMC panel chair Kenneth Caley said: “The panel noted that Ms Okondunjokanma has [portrayed] herself as the victim in her emails and statements to the NMC." In her letter dated April 24, 2017, Okondunjokanma stated that she gone through “the trauma of crown court, imprisonment and compensation of £20,000 paid to Southwark Council for a case [which] I’m only a victim of circumstance.”

The panel noted an apology made by Okondunjokanma, but Mr Caley said: “The panel was of the view that she has not taken responsibility for her role in her crime. The seriousness of the dishonesty has led the panel to conclude that Ms Okondunjokanma’s behaviour is fundamentally incompatible with being a registered professional. The panel is of the view that the public would expect Ms Okondunjokanma to be removed from the NMC’s register as a result of her actions.

“A striking-off order is the only sanction that would satisfy the public interest in order to maintain public confidence in the profession and the NMC as its regulatory body.”

Okondunjokanma’s criminal trial (in September 2016) ended Southwark Council’s crackdown on council housing fraud known as Operation Bronze, which opened in 2011 and achieved 38 convictions, resulting in 42 properties being reallocated to genuine applicants.


30 May 2017

Team tackles housing frauds in Southwark

The number of council housing fraud cases passing through Southwark Council has fallen dramatically since 2014, a report has shown. (h/t tenancyfraud)

A “special investigation” team within Southwark Council’s Housing and Modernisation Department detected 509 suspect housing-tenancy cases between April 2016 and March 2017, compared with 1,751 in 2014-15.

Investigations in 2016-17 resulted in 89 council homes being seized. 173 applicants were taken off the council’s housing waiting list, while 106 applicants were classed as “bona fide”.

The work carried out by Southwark’s two verification officers, within anti-fraud services, also saw 22 right-to-buy applications stopped or cancelled.

So they were cost effective on this measure alone.

The council received 1,005 referrals from members of public via its website, by email, and its fraud hotline in 2016-17. This contributed to 77 “successful sanctions” among the 509 suspect cases that were detected.

Councillor Stephanie Cryan, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for housing, said:
The council has an obligation to ensure all applicants on our housing waiting list are genuinely in need and don’t have other properties, mortgages or undeclared changes to their circumstances, for example.

The council has focused on key areas which will prevent, reduce and detect fraud in order to safeguard and recover public assets – taking the matter to court where necessary.

A great deal of work has gone into improving the way the council verifies identities, cross references information and raises awareness of fraud to members of staff and the public.

Right to Buy applicants are reminded of the gravity of fraud and money laundering. These factors, combined with the push for prosecution for housing fraud, have attributed to a reduction in fraud in all areas.
The investigators’ scope was to look at unlawful subletting, non-occupation of council homes, succession, assignment, mutual exchange of homes between tenants, and right-to-buy.

Southwark has carried out annual fraud investigations of its housing department since 2014, after new government legislation.

The most prolific case to emerge from Southwark’s investigations came last year, when one of its former housing officers was handed a five year jail sentence for handling 24 bogus cases between 2003 and 2005. Five of the officer’s clients were also successfully convicted for offences such as illegal subletting of their council homes, and making applications using fraudulent birth certificates for children they didn’t.


13 Apr 2017

Deserved jail sentence for right to buy fraudster

This is good news. Right to buy fraud is a wicked crime, taking a property out of the social housing stock at a big discount under false pretences. In this instance he was caught in time, and given an 18 month prison sentence.

A conman who tried to buy a council flat under the Right to Buy scheme was jailed after officers discovered he was illegally subletting it. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Babak Karimaghaei, 37, claimed to be living in a bedsit in Park View on the Highbury Park Estate when he applied to buy it. But Islington Council’s housing investigations team discovered he was living somewhere else, and he was prosecuted before he could get a £103,000 discount.

On Friday, March 31 at Blackfriars Crown Court, Karimaghaei was convicted of fraud by false representation, and jailed for 18 months.

Sentencing him, judge Richardson said: “Immediate custody is required to punish a cynical abuse of a right intended for people who were really living in the house which they were applying to buy.”

Town hall housing boss Cllr Diarmaid Ward said Right-to-Buy fraud took housing away from the people who badly needed it and profited fraudsters like Karimaghaei. “We will investigate all suspected right-to-buy fraud, take legal action where there is evidence, and pursue the strongest penalties against offenders,” he said.


6 Apr 2017

Suspended sentence for illegal sub-letting

A council tenant who illegally sublet her house has been given a suspended prison sentence. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Lisa McDermott made a profit of nearly £16,500 during a two-year period by leasing out her property in Earl's Court .

She had moved out of the home in July 2013 after buying a property with her husband in Battersea.

McDermott, was given a nine-month prison sentence suspended for two years.

She had failed to declare that she was no longer living at Hunter House in Old Brompton Road , having purchased a new home in Wynter Street, Battersea in July 2013.

The 37-year-old sublet her Kensington and Chelsea property until March 2015, when the deception was uncovered during a visit from the local authority’s Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) , who alerted the council’s fraud team. It was established that McDermott was no longer resident at the property and instead another family was living at the address.

The court also heard that during this period she had paid the Royal borough rental income totalling £12,849, but sublet the sublet income received from the family totalled £29,295 - a profit of £16,446.

McDermott had pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to disclose not using the property as a main and principal home and subletting contrary to Section 1 and 3 of the Fraud Act 2006 at an earlier court hearing.

In sentencing McDermott, the judge, Mr Recorder M Chawla QC, stated in his view the offence was so serious a community order would not itself be appropriate and crossed the threshold of custody. In mitigation he said the defendant was of previous good character and gave her credit for the early guilty plea.

At her sentencing at Southwark Crown Court on Friday (March 31) she was also ordered to complete a rehabilitation requirement programme within the next year. A Proceeds of Crime confiscation hearing has also set up a timetable to recover the money taken.


24 Mar 2017

New tech reveals 70 Gloucester homes may be occupied fraudulently

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.

14 Mar 2017

Hoddesdon catches up with keys amnesty

Tenancy fraudsters in Hoddesdon have the chance to give up their keys without fear of prosecution as part of a crackdown on illegal sub-letting. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Hoddesdon housing association, B3Living, will work with Hertfordshire Shared Anti-Fraud Service to tackle tenancy fraud within its 4,600 homes.

It is estimated between two and seven per cent of housing association homes are occupied by someone who should not be living there.

The key amnesty will last throughout March and gives anyone illegally sub-letting or not occupying their property the chance to hand back keys to the main reception at B3Living's offices in Hoddesdon.

Deborah Fenton, head of housing at B3Living, said: "We are encouraging other residents and members of the public to report fraud so that we can investigate it – you will be helping families who are affected by the housing crisis and are in desperate need of a home."

There are 237 families living in temporary accommodation in Broxbourne and B3Living has underlined the importance of tackling fraud.

Tenancy fraud covers key selling – where a resident receives a one-off payment to hand over their keys – to subletting, where a tenant lets the whole or part of the property without the consent of the homeowner for financial gain. It also covers application fraud where a tenant provides false or misleading information on their housing application.


8 Mar 2017

Illegally sublet dwelling reclaimed

A clampdown on fraudsters has got off to a successful start after Aldwyck Housing Group successfully gained back a Watford property which was being illegally sublet.

Aldwyck was awarded a 42 day possession order against Jo-Ann Cooper, who was illegally subletting the whole of her Wilmington Court property. Working closely in conjunction with Watford and Three Rivers councils, Aldwyck was able to take the case to court and was awarded £11,650 in costs.

It is hoped that this successful case will send out a clear message to those who are committing tenancy fraud.

Tony Campbell, head of housing at Aldwyck, said: “Aldwyck, Watford and Three Rivers have sent out a clear message to any residents that tenancy fraud will in no way be tolerated. It’s great that we are able to work closely with our local authority partners to ensure the people who most need our property receive it.”

Councillor Mark Watkin, responsible for resources and customer service at Watford Borough Council, said: “This is yet another example of how the local authorities work with housing associations in order to combat fraud. The result of this investigation has led to a property being freed up for those that need it as there is a very high demand for social housing.”


2 Mar 2017

Suspended sentence for illegal sub-letter

A tenant who illegally sublet his social-rent flat for seven years in London’s East End with its chronic housing shortage has been given a suspended prison sentence. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Kibria Ahmed had rented out his flat in the five-storey Donne House in Dod Street in Poplar, near the A12 Blackwall Tunnel Approach, since 2010.

But the 30-year-old was finally exposed by the Poplar Harca Housing landlords which traced him living at his parents’ home off Burdett Road, half-a-mile away, where he was living before switching again to his brother’s home.

But all the time he sublet the tenancy he had been given at Donne House on Poplar’s Lansbury East Estate, Basildon Crown Court heard.

This was the Harca’s first criminal prosecution under a recent change in the law upgrading illegal subletting, previously treated as a civil matter, as housing fraud.

“He thought he was getting away with it—and did for too long,” Harca’s counter fraud manager Avril Drummond said. “He is paying the price of defrauding families on the Housing List all waiting for a home. This crime has real impact on many tenants waiting to move.”

Ahmed was prosecuted through Thurrock Council in Essex, which is Harca’s affiliated partner for legal actions.

He was sentenced to 12 months, suspended for two years, when he appeared in court last Wednesday, admitting two charges of housing fraud. He was also given 120 hours unpaid community work.

The housing organisation is now investigating 17 more cases where tenancy irregularities are suspected.

There are almost 20,000 families on the Tower Hamlets waiting list.


Good to see a housing association actually taking the initiative in tacklking illegal sub-letting.

But where was the unlawful profit order?

27 Feb 2017

Another unlawful profit order for illegal sub-letting

A Council tenant has been ordered to pay almost £3,000 by way of an Unlawful Profit Order in addition to a further £2,914 in costs to the Council - after letting out his property on the website AirBnB. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Peter John Wootton, aged 46, of Coastguard Flats, West Looe, was due to appear at Bodmin Magistrates Court on Wednesday 22 February, but failed to attend. As a result, the Magistrates agreed to hear the case in his absence.

During the hearing, the court heard that the Council's Corporate Fraud Investigations Team began investigating Mr Wootton in July 2016 after receiving an anonymous tip off that he had been advertising his property on the website AirBnB. Under the terms of Mr Wootton's tenancy with Cornwall Housing Ltd he did not have permission to sub-let the property.

Further investigations identified 10 instances where payments were made to Mr Wootton, totalling £2,958.

The court heard that a number of attempts had been made to interview Mr Wootton under caution. He eventually attended for interview in November 2016 but decided that he did not want to stay or be shown the various items of documentary evidence. He later sent the Council a short handwritten statement stating that during the summer he had had people staying who he classed as lodgers.

After hearing the case, Magistrates found Mr Wootton guilty of an offence under Section 1 of the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act for sub-letting and parting with possession of his whole dwelling house, ceasing to occupy it as his only or principal home.

Kevin Hill, prosecuting for Cornwall Council, then presented the Court with a Section 4 Notice under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act for an Unlawful Profit Order to the value of £2,958.

The Magistrates awarded full payment of the Unlawful Profit Order of £2,958.00 and, in addition, granted the Council's application for investigation and legal costs totalling £2,914.00. This amount covered the costs of investigating the matter and bringing it before the Court.

Following the conviction, Pete Jarman, Landlord Services Director for Cornwall Housing Ltd, said: "Cornwall Housing Ltd. takes tenancy fraud very seriously and works closely in partnership with Cornwall Council's Corporate Fraud team to identify, investigate and potentially prosecute cases of tenancy fraud. It is important that such a scarce resource as social housing goes to individuals and families who are in genuine housing need."

Simba Muzarurwi, Cornwall Council's Head of Internal Audit and Risk, said: "Our team of professional investigators continue to work with Cornwall Housing Ltd to combat fraud. The Council has a zero tolerance policy on all forms of fraud so the Corporate Counter Fraud Team will leave no stone unturned to ensure that those responsible for perpetrating fraud are brought to book. By continuous checking and investigation of anomalies in information supplied by tenants and potential tenants, we can help ensure that housing in Cornwall is allocated to those in most need."


Despite the brave words, this is another case where the housing provider only found out about the illegal sub-letting through an anonymous tip-off.

22 Feb 2017

Another belated keys amnesty - Swansea this time

Tenants illegally sub-letting their council homes in Swansea will face no action - but only if they take part in a new 'key amnesty' initiative. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

The Swansea Council scheme, which is being held throughout February and March, is aimed at cracking down on what authority leaders call "unacceptable" tenancy fraud.

From April onwards however, the council says it will push for maximum sentences in the courts, which could see offenders given up to two years in prison, issued fines of up to £50,000 as well as other costs.

The sub-letting of social housing is unlawful and involves tenants who rent out their home and live elsewhere.

Andrea Lewis, cabinet member for next generation services, said: "Tenancy fraud is unacceptable. It can mean that vulnerable families waiting for a property are waiting longer on the housing register than they need to be. People living in unlawfully sub-let properties also often pay large amounts in rent without any security.

"Although the problem here in Swansea is nowhere near as widespread as in other parts of the UK, we're determined to take action to cut down on waiting lists for council homes and help tackle the lack of affordable housing across the city.

"Key amnesties have been successful in other local authority areas, with many properties having been recovered as a direct result and those in genuine need being housed more quickly.

"We'd urge anyone who is committing tenancy fraud in Swansea to surrender their tenancies now because that will avoid the council taking legal action against them."


"Key amnesties have been successful in other local authority areas". Indeed. What took Swansea so long?

21 Feb 2017

Belated keys amnesty sees six homes returned

Six family council homes in Brighton & Hove have been made available after a successful tenancy fraud amnesty. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Tenant frauds handed back the keys to six homes to two three-bedroom, two two-bedroom and two one-bedroom properties.

It brings the total of homes recovered from tenancy fraud in 2016/17 to 20 - saving the council up to £360,000.

The amnesty ran throughout December and January offering tenants illegally subletting their homes or keeping a social housing tenancy while living elsewhere the chance to hand their properties back to the council without fear of legal action.

It was run ahead of a new data-matching exercise launched this month which will be used to identify further illegal subletting and tenants not using their council property as their main home.

Tenant cheats uncovered through this new exercise are being warned they will face legal action.

Councillor Anne Meadows, housing and new homes committee, said: “There is a huge demand for housing in the city and it’s fantastic that the amnesty has freed up six homes that can now go to residents who need them. It has allowed us to get these homes back quickly without the additional costs of legal action. Tenancy fraud deprives residents in housing need at a huge cost to the city and we will continue to do all we can to tackle it.”

National figures suggest that tenancy fraud costs the public purse £18,000 a year for each property though with the high costs of housing people in temporary accommodation in the city, the savings for Brighton and Hove City Council are likely to be "significantly more".


I am still amazed that it takes some councils so long to get round to offering a keys amnesty. I should know better by now, but I had expected they would all pounce on this as soon as the legislation was in place.

Better late than never, I suppose.

7 Feb 2017

Light sentence for illegal sub-letting

A man bought a home in Colchester after he was given a bpha property for himself and his family.

Taslim Goodluck, formerly of Rendlesham Walk, Bedford has been ordered to pay a total of £1,500 after pleading guilty to illegally subletting his bpha house for over two years.

An investigation, conducted by Bedford Borough Council's Investigation Team, found Mr Goodluck purchased his own house in Colchester shortly after obtaining the bpha property for himself and his family. After moving, Mr Goodluck allowed his cousin to live at the address and collected rent from her for over two years.

Mr Goodluck was prosecuted at Luton Crown Court on January 26, 2017, on one count of illegally subletting a social housing property under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013.

The court heard that by committing this offence Mr Goodluck had deprived those genuinely in need of a home, and had allowed his cousin to bypass the housing application process.

Mr Goodluck was ordered to pay a fine of £750 and costs of £750 to Bedford Borough Council.

Portfolio Holder for Finance, Councillor Michael Headley said: "Bedford Borough Council has a strict housing application processes which allows for the fair allocation of social housing to those most in need, and those who attempt to cheat the system can expect to be prosecuted. If you know someone not living in their bpha house; subletting it to someone else; or someone who lied to get their house, then report it to the council to help stamp out tenancy fraud and make sure houses go those most in need."

Social housing fraud is the most wicked type of welfare fraud. Families are deprived of a home they need and often have to be placed in temporary accommodation at great expense. So it must be deterred. Sentences like this don't cut it.

Across the UK it is estimated 98,000 housing association or council homes are occupied by someone who should not live there. They may have obtained their tenancy fraudulently either by unlawful subletting; obtaining a home by deception or wrongly claiming succession after someone dies.

6 Feb 2017

Tenant guilty of illegal sub-letting

A Charlton housing association tenant who sublet his home has been prosecuted and ordered to repay more than £4,000.

Aldio Raji was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months and ordered to undertake 180 hours of unpaid work within the community at Woolwich Crown Court on Friday January 20. The 50-year-old was ordered to repay the unlawful rental profit he had made of £4,330.29, £500 in costs and a victim surcharge of £100.

Mr Raji had obtained a one bedroom property with Charlton Triangle Homes (CTH) at Valiant House in 1999 but in 2015 tenancy officers suspected he might be subletting it illegally.

Thanks to Government funding Greenwich council’s Unauthorised Occupation Team (UOT) was able to offer assistance in an investigation which discovered Mr Raji had been charging £800 rent for the property since June 2014.

Last October Mr Raji was charged with offences relating to the Fraud Act, the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act offence and one offence under the Protection from Eviction Act for having illegally removed a tenant from the property. He pleaded guilty to three charges when he appeared at Woolwich Crown Court last month.

Councillor Maureen O’Mara, the cabinet member for customer services, said: “The demand for social housing is at an all-time high for all social housing providers. Due to the excellent joint working of the Royal Borough and the CTA we have managed to catch another housing fraudster and another property has been returned. This will now be allocated to a Greenwich resident in genuine need.”


Illegal sub-letter to be pursued for consequential losses

Dog hairs led to the conviction of a woman for subletting her council home in Blackheath for nearly ten years.

Greenwich council is flagging up that it has successfully prosecuted a 47-year-old woman from Bath for a tenancy fraud worth £71,000.

The council say Jacqueline Hunt was awarded the two bedroom property in a mutual exchange from a housing association in September 2006. However in 2014 reports that dog hairs were causing a nuisance on the stairwell outside Ms Hunt’s property were made to the council. It was then established that Ms Hunt wasn’t a dog owner and the property was being sublet.

An investigation by officers from the council’s Unauthorised Occupation team confirmed that the property had been continually sublet shortly after Ms Hunt had obtained it in 2006. Further enquries by the council’s Internal Audit and Anti-Fraud team revealed Ms Hunt left the London area in 2005 to attend a university in Bath and had briefly returned to carry out the mutual exchange. The council says at no time did Ms Hunt advise that she was no longer living in the borough.

In early 2013 she presented herself to Bath and North East Somerset Council stating that she needed accommodation as she was to be evicted from her private dwelling.

Ms Hunt who pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud and one of forgery was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years at Woolwich Crown Court on December 16. She was ordered to pay Greenwich council £2,840 within two years.

Judge Katz QC also recommended the council to pursue its financial losses from the fraud which are in excess of £71,000 as it was deprived of the use of the full use of the property.

Councillor Maureen O’Mara, the cabinet member for customer services, said: “The demand for social housing within the Royal Borough is at an all-time high. Ms Hunt deprived those in genuine need of a two bedroom property for almost 10 years and sublet it whilst bettering her own education and obtaining yet another social housing property in Bath. It’s encouraging to know that the Royal Borough is working in partnership with housing associations and other local authorities to help investigate and prosecute these individuals for their actions. Indeed Ms Hunt’s actions were deplorable and her selfish act has cost the Royal Borough over £71,000. It’s good to see every effort will be made to recover these losses from her. Let’s hope she has learned her lesson.”


31 Jan 2017

Corrupt ex-council officer must pay over £30,000

A former council senior officer has been fined more than £30,000 after facing charges of housing fraud.

She was one of two sisters found guilty of unlawfully subletting their social housing properties.

Kathryn Adedeji and her sister, Blessing, of Greenwich and Tower Hamlets, were found guilty following a trial at The Old Bailey.

Kathryn, who was previously employed by Thurrock Council, and Blessing were both accused and found guilty of unlawful subletting, contrary to the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013. Kathryn Adedeji had sublet her social housing property over 22 months between March 2014 and December 2015 to her sister Blessing, who in turn had sublet her own social housing to other tenants.

Thurrock Council’s specialist Counter Fraud & Investigation Service initiated and led the investigation following a whistle blowing in July 2015.

Kathryn will have to pay a penalty fine of £10,000 and has 28 days to pay this and also prosecution charges of £23,000 and has six months to pay this.

The charges, which were brought under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013, follow an investigation by the council’s fraud team.

She was suspended by the council in December 2015 as part of the internal investigation.


16 Jan 2017

Another belated keys amnesty

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."


24 Nov 2016

Poor legal process in sub-letting case

A council tenant in Kensal Rise has been ordered to pay back almost £10,000 and has placed under a curfew for illegally subletting his flat.

Harry Lambert rented out the one-bedroom property on the open market for three years while he lived at another address in Willesden.

The 38-year-old was caught when his tenants allowed a gas engineer carrying out works on behalf of Brent Housing Partnership into the flat and an investigation was launched.

Last week he admitted dishonestly sub-letting his council property under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 and was sentenced to a 12-week curfew between 12 noon and 12 midnight each weekend.

A very light punishment for an offence carried on over three years.

An unlawful profit order totalling £9,276 was made which he must pay back to the council and also pay the costs of bringing the case to court.

Civil action is now underway to evict him so that the property can be returned back to Brent Council.

So not only a light sentence, a clunky legal process.

Cllr Harbi Farah, Brent Council’s cabinet member for housing, said:

“Brent Council is absolutely committed to tackling housing fraud. With council properties in such high demand, it is completely unacceptable that some individuals are trying to break the law for personal gain. This successful prosecution of a council tenant who illegally sublet his home to private tenants - shows how seriously we take these offences.”


23 Nov 2016

CCTV helps Sandwell prove sub-letting

Fraudsters who were sub-letting Sandwell Council houses have been caught out - saving the authority up to £400,000.

Officers in the council’s CCTV control room together with its counter fraud team have recently recovered four properties which were being fraudulently sub-let.

Each council property recovered from fraudsters is an estimated saving to the local authority of £93,000.

Councillor Steve Eling, Sandwell Council leader, said:
We have had four cases recently where the CCTV images provided by our control room have been invaluable in helping to prove the fraud. Sub-letting our properties is not only illegal but it also prevents families from being housed legitimately.
The joint effort between Sandwell’s CCTV control room and the counter fraud team has seen properties go back into legitimate use - offering up significant savings to the council.

In three instances, CCTV footage showed properties being used by people other than the tenant and in the fourth, images showed a tenant living at a different property resulting in benefit fraud over-payments.

Savings for the council are determined following a report called Protecting the Public Purse 2015.

The Cabinet Office looked into the costs to local authorities including people on waiting lists, in temporary accommodation, fraudulent benefits claims, legal costs to evict people and it was estimated the overall saving for each property recovered was on average £93,000.

All four of the recent tenancies were ended and the individuals involved are unlikely to be housed by the council again.


No word or prosecutions or compensation orders?