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Showing posts with label keys amnesty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label keys amnesty. Show all posts

14 Dec 2017

East Devon discovers keys amnesty

It's amazing how long it takes some councils to get round to offering a keys amnesty. It's quck, it's cheap, and it offers huge savings.

Tenants who illegally sublet their council houses are being given a month to hand their keys back and avoid prosecution.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) is holding a ‘key’ amnesty between January 2, 2018 and January 31 during which time those who are illegally renting their council property out can hand back the key without fear of legal action.

Tenants who illegally sublet their properties are breaking the law and if convicted face an unlimited fine or imprisonment of up to two years for committing fraud.

From February 1 the council is warning tenancy cheats that they will actively seek them out and will prosecute.

Great idea.

Cllr Jill Elson, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for sustainable homes and communities, said: “The vast majority of our tenants are living in their homes legally and they have nothing to worry about. Our message is clear: if you are an illegal tenant, then we are giving you a month’s grace to hand back your keys and give up your tenancy and no further action will be taken.”

Cllr Pauline Stott, chairman of East Devon District Council’s housing review board, added: “The council is determined that its limited number of affordable homes are occupied legally by honest tenants. If you are committing tenancy fraud, this is your opportunity to do the right thing and hand back the key. When you return the key, no questions will be asked.”

Latest figures show that there are 723 households in East Devon with a high need for affordable social housing and they are waiting for a home to become available.

• The ‘key’ amnesty is targeted at tenants who illegally sublet, obtain housing by deception, wrongly claim succession (where a tenant dies and someone, who is not entitled to, tries to take over or succeed the tenancy) or sell the key.

Source

Click the keys amnesty tag below for more.

18 Oct 2017

Tenancy fraud & right to buy fraud in Bassetlaw

A Bassetlaw A1 Housing tenant who was living and studying overseas for a number of years has been booted out of the property in a crackdown which has seen three fraudulent tenancies terminated.

An investigation was launched after the A1 Housing tenant applied to buy the property through the Right to Buy scheme - but it was suspected that it was not their main property.

It emerged that the tenant was "spending a considerable amount of time outside of the UK" and that they had been "living and attending university abroad for the majority of their time over a number of years".

Joint investigations by Bassetlaw District Council’s Fraud Investigations Team and A1 Housing - who manage the council's housing stock - uncovered the case and two other cases of tenancy fraud. All three resulted in voluntary terminations of the tenancies.

In the second case, the investigation team uncovered evidence that suggested a tenant was subletting their property. At an interview under caution the tenant admitted that their family had not been living at the property for the last 18 months.

And in the third case, housing officers had suspicions that the male tenant was subletting when, during a routine visit, only women's belongings could be seen in the flat. After initially denying the fraud, the tenant terminated the tenancy and returned the keys to A1 Housing.

Cllr Steve Scotthorne, cabinet member for Housing at Bassetlaw District Council, said: “Tenancy Fraud is illegal and deprives genuine tenants access to a home they may desperately need. The Council’s investigation team and A1 Housing will look closely into any suspicious circumstances and will not hesitate to recover a property, or pursue a criminal prosecution, should they find someone guilty of committing benefit fraud.”

None of the three tenants resulted in criminal prosecutions.

Tenancy cheats can face a fine of up to £50,000 and a prison sentence of up to two years if they are caught committing fraud. But the council says that should tenants voluntarily return the property back to them, they will not face any further legal action.

Tenancy fraud can include unlawfully subletting your property, dishonestly applying for a council property using someone else’s details or false information, continuing to live in a property if that person passes away and you do not have succession rights, or using someone else’s tenancy rights to put in a Right to Buy application.

Source

8 May 2017

16 social housing properties recovered in Derry

We don't usually cover Northern Ireland. But we've made an exception here: social housing fraud is the wickedest form of benefit fraud - it's more than just money, it's depriving people of a home. 

But the money's not trivial. If temporary housing costs £18,000 a year, the saving from this little local exercise is £288,000.

And if this can be saved in Derry, imagine what savings are available nationally.

Sadly, though, reclaiming 16 properties won't dent a waiting list which extends to 3,500 in Derry alone.


The Housing Executive has confirmed it has carried out over 70 tenancy fraud investigations in Derry over the past year. (h/t FraudManager)

A total of 16 properties have been recovered as a result of the 76 investigations conducted across the city during the year from April 2016 to the end of March 2017.

The figures were obtained after the Housing Executive announced an amnesty for fraudsters during the month of May as long as they hand their keys back.

The majority of the fraud investigations were conducted in the Waterside area of Derry last year. As a result of 42 probes launched, seven properties were recovered on Derry’s east bank.

A further 19 cases were investigated in the area covered by the HE’s Collon Terrace office, with six homes recovered, while another 15 were conducted from the Waterloo office of the Housing Executive in the city centre, with three properties recovered.

A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said:
In the year 2015/16, in keeping with PAC recommendations, the NIHE established an evidenced based baseline figure for the level of tenancy fraud within NIHE stock. The baseline figure was calculated as 0.6%; incorporating a 95% tolerance, this means that tenancy fraud levels would range between 0.12% and 1.08% of NIHE stock. The 2016/17 baselining exercise is not yet complete (two cases remain under investigation)but indications are that the baseline level of tenancy fraud will be in keeping with the range identified in previous audits.
Tenancy fraud includes not occupying a home, providing false or incomplete information on housing or homeless, and sub-letting your home without permission. The Housing Executive warned that tenancy fraud was unfairly depriving people on the Social Housing Waiting List.

By the start of 2017 there were almost 3,500 families or single applicants in Derry waiting to be housed.

Source

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.

Source

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."

Source

"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".

Source

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.

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."

Source

25 Aug 2016

Swansea proposes keys amnesty!

It seems so long since we ridiculed Cornwall for catching up with the idea of a keys amnesty. Now news has reached Swansea!

An amnesty is to be offered to Swansea Council tenants illegally sub-letting properties, as a report reveals up to £4.5 million could be being lost to the authority in council tenancy fraud.

The authority's audit committee will review an annual study by the council corporate fraud team, in which the European Institute for Combating Corruption and Fraud estimates two per cent of housing stock outside London are at risk from potential tenancy fraud, which in Swansea equates to 270 properties.

And with the estimated cost of keeping a family in temporary accommodation for one year standing at £18,000, it equates to a potential loss of £4,860,000 to Swansea Council.

However, the figure is speculative and likely to be much lower, and Swansea Council says the number of empty properties within its housing stock continues to be at historic low levels, with more than 98 per cent of its 13,500 properties occupied.

The properties concerned won't be on their books as empty.

But it admits the possibility of 'a small minority' of tenants are illegally sub-letting their homes or leaving them unoccupied and living elsewhere.

To address the potential problem, Swansea Council is to offer an amnesty to any council tenant who may be engaging in the illegal activity.

The amnesty is being planned within the next few months which will provide an opportunity for any tenant who may be committing tenancy fraud, and who wishes to avoid prosecution, to hand back the keys to their property and walk away.

Andrea Lewis, Swansea Council's cabinet member for next generation services, said:
Tenancy fraud is unacceptable. Not only is it illegal, but it can deprive often vulnerable families of much-needed accommodation and generate anti-social behaviour that sometimes impacts on entire communities.

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. 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.

People who are unlawfully sub-letting their council houses or leaving them unoccupied are also depriving other council tenants across Swansea because the money the council is losing as a direct result would be reinvested back into services for the benefit of residents.
Following the amnesty, any tenant caught committing tenancy fraud could face a maximum sentence of up to two years in prison, a fine of up to £50,000 and recovery not only of the property, but also the proceeds from renting the property together with all legal costs.

20 Jan 2016

Now Tower Hamlets announces keys amnesty

Illegally sublet social rented properties have been seized after two cases of tenancy fraud in London’s East End were taken to court.

The seizures by Poplar Harca social landlords on two housing estates were revealed on the eve of Tower Hamlets council declaring a “housing amnesty” for any tenants illegally subletting.

Don't rush now.

Tower Hamlets has London’s longest housing waiting list, with almost 20,000 families in the queue for a home.

One property being sublet on Poplar’s Leopold Estate was brought to light by a tip-off from a neighbour which led to a possession order granted by Bow County Court. A second property which had been left empty with an absent tenant for three years was recovered from nearby Lansbury North Estate.

Don't rush now.

Eight properties have now been seized by Poplar Harca since April and five fraudulent Right to Buy claims have been stopped.

“We operate a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to housing fraud,” Poplar Harca’s counter-fraud investigator Avril Drummond said. “Every repossession means another family on the waiting list can be housed.”

Tower Hamlets Council, meanwhile, launched its amnesty with its own housing organisation and other local housing associations, hoping to recover illegally sublet properties and stamp out fraud estimated at £13 million a year.

A two-bedroom property the council has already retrieved in Bethnal Green has been given to a young mum on the waiting list, Amy Sictorness, 22, who has made 200 applications for a home since 2012. She now has a home for her five-month-old baby Lucia.

Amy said: “It’s shocking that people use social housing to make money. It means people like me wait longer than we should for a home.”

The local authority has pledged to “honour the amnesty”—but also warned it would use its powers to stamp out tenancy fraud.

Mayor John Biggs said: “It is wrong for people to make a ‘quick buck’ at the expense of those who desperately need a home. Our priority is to get illegally sublet social housing back, for the people on our housing list and to protect the public purse.”

The amnesty runs until March 6 for those illegally subletting to hand back the keys to the council or housing association without consequence.

Tenancy fraud is a criminal offence, the council warns, with prosecution that can lead to £5,000 fines or even a prison sentence.

Source

11 Jan 2016

Dozy Wiltshire: let's have keys amnesty

Dozy Wiltshire have stirred and decided to have a keys amnesty, reports the BBC.

People illegally subletting their council-provided homes are being offered the chance to hand in keys with "no questions asked".

The month-long amnesty comes ahead of Wiltshire Council's crackdown on tenancy fraud.

Gracious, whatever made them think of that?

A council spokesman said the cost of placing a family in temporary accommodation is £18,000 a year and the fraud stops genuine people in need (sic). Those found guilty of tenancy fraud can face up to two years in prison.

"They also risk an unlimited statutory fine and will have to pay back any profits they have made," the spokesman said:
Social housing tenants may be prosecuted for not occupying their home as their main residence and illegally subletting parts or the whole of their home.

Anyone who returns their keys at reception at the Wiltshire Council offices in Salisbury or Trowbridge before 10 February will not face legal action.
At present there are more than 17,500 social housing properties in Wiltshire, with 5,319 of those owned by Wiltshire Council.

6 Oct 2015

Basildon gets round to offering keys amnesty

Council tenants illegally subletting their properties have been offered a ’get out of jail free card’, before Basildon Council launches a major clampdown.

The authority will hold a tenancy fraud amnesty, whereby any illegal landlords who admit to their crimes by November 7 will escape prosecution.

However, once the campaign ends, the council will be allocating extra manpower to seeking out remaining offenders and seeking severe punishments through the courts.

The offending tenants have been told to hand their keys in by the cut-off date or face prosecution. A collection box for keys has been installed in the council foyer.

A council spokesman said that once the amnesty ended, the authority will start enforcing the new Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act, which has made it easier to prosecute offenders by introducing two new offences. Those successfully prosecuted under the new act could be sent to jail and/or ordered to pay up to £50,000.

Council leader Phil Turner said:
This campaign will tackle housing fraud in the interests of supporting those in genuine need and ensuring we deliver value for money. Once the key amnesty ends, our team will be working 24/7 and any tenant caught committing council house fraud will face prosecution. The campaign is seen as a major offensive on housing fraud, with extra resources being made available to investigate and prosecute. Work elsewhere in the country has shown that as much as five per cent of council-owned properties are involved in some form of housing fraud. This means there are potentially hundreds of families on Basildon’s waiting list who shouldn’t be there.
Source

5 Aug 2015

Runnymede gets round to a keys amnesty

An amnesty has been launched for council tenants illegally subletting their homes.

Runnymede Council is giving them two months to hand back the keys without being prosecuted.

The idea is to free up council homes to help those most in need.

The council thinks tenants are illegally renting out their properties, this crime is usually met with a fine and a prison sentence.

It currently costs an average of £350 a week to place a family in a B&B.

For each home surrendered, the council says it will save £18,000 a year.

Runnymede Borough Council’s Housing Committee Chairman, Cllr Hugh Meares, said:
We must ensure we are making the best use of our housing stock. Illegal subletting puts pressure on our housing waiting list therefore taking longer to re-house homeless families.

It currently costs the Council an average of £350 a week to place a family in bed and breakfast. Each home surrendered will save the council £18,000 a year so we have made the identification of illegal subletting one of our top priorities.
Runnymede Borough Council’s Tenancy Manager, Amanda Kendall, said:
Illegal subletting prevents homes from being made available to families in genuine need. If we identify subletting after the amnesty has ended we will not hesitate to prosecute those tenants for fraud. They could face a fine of £5,000 or a two year prison sentence and they may be required to pay to the Council any “profit” made on the illegal subletting. To avoid prosecution they should hand back the keys to Runnymede Borough Council during the amnesty period.
Source

7 May 2015

Dozy Dacorum lumbers into 2013

A 'no questions asked' key amnesty is being launched by Dacorum Borough Council to stop illegal subletting of council properties.

During June, the council will be giving tenants who are either illegally subletting or not living in their council homes the chance to hand their keys back with no questions asked.

Tenants will be sent a letter during May explaining that since the introduction of the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013, it is a criminal offence if they have a tenancy with the council but live elsewhere and sublet the property to another person, which is also a breach of their tenancy.

Yes, 2013, dozy Dacorum.

Anyone who hands in their keys to end their tenancy between June 1 and 30 will not have legal action taken against them for either subletting or not occupying their homes. This will allow the council to re-let the properties to legitimate applicants on the Housing Register.

Andy Vincent, group manager for tenants and leaseholders, said: "We have 5,388 people on our housing register who are in need of a home, and illegal subletting deprives them of this. The key amnesty will give us a chance to help those families in need of housing."

Immediately after the key amnesty end on Tuesday, June 30, the council will be conducting a major crackdown on tenants who sublet or abandon their properties.

Any tenants found illegally subletting their council homes could face up to two years in prison, a fine of up to £50,000 and will also have to pay any profits they've made.

When dozy Dacorum Council get round to it.

Source

24 Feb 2015

Keys amnesty reaches Slough

Local authorities sometimes move slowly. After Cornwall, word of keys amnesties has reached Slough.

An amnesty is being held in Slough in order to give tenants who are illegally subletting their council homes the chance to hand their keys back.

Those who wish to avoid prosecution for tenancy fraud, a crime which could land offenders in jail or with a hefty fine, will be able to drop their keys in to the council between March 1 and 31, with no questions asked.

The keys must be placed in an envelope with the property’s address clearly written on it and dropped in the key amnesty box at MyCouncil, in Landmark Place.

A major crackdown on tenants who cheat the system will be launched in April with council officers stepping up doorstep checks, using electronic document readers to verify tenants’ details and working with the National Fraud initiative to weed out fraudulent housing applications.

“This amnesty will give anyone who has been subletting their council property for whatever reason the chance to make a clean break,” said tenancy fraud officer, John Moores. “It’s also an opportunity for people to tell us if they don’t use their council property as their main home or have moved in with a partner. After the amnesty we will be cracking down hard on tenancy fraudsters, prosecuting any cases we come across. So this really is the last chance to come clean without the fear of being taken to court.”

For every illegally sublet property, the council pays around £20,000 a year to find alternative accommodation for a family who could otherwise be housed.

“We have such a huge demand for social housing in Slough, with nearly 2,000 households in need and waiting for a council house,” said Cllr James Swindlehurst, deputy leader and commissioner for neighbourhoods and renewal. “Each property returned to the council will mean a new home for one of these families and money saved to the council for other things. Sometimes tenants have let friends use their property while they’re away, leading to a longer term arrangement involving an exchange of cash rather than any pre-planned criminality. However, tenancy fraud is a serious crime, not to mention a breach of our tenancy agreement, and its one we’re not willing to turn a blind eye to. The likelihood is that we’ll catch up with you sooner or later, so do the right thing and drop your keys back with no questions asked while you still can.”

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

2 Sep 2014

Oxford finally launches illegal sub-letting amnesty

The dynamos at Oxford City Council have finally got round to their amnesty for illegal sub-letters. Readers may recall that Barnet ran theirs in October 2013. Oxford announced in June that their amnesty would run from August. In fact it started yesterday, so they missed even that deadline.

Oxford City Council tells us that more than 54 allegations of sub-letting are also being investigated at the moment and, since November 2011, 282 cases have been opened. We know 50 homes have been reclaimed in the last three years, so that's not a high strike rate.

6 Aug 2014

Well done, Barnet!

Barnet Borough Council says it has prevented housing fraud worth £11.9million in the past year.

The authority’s corporate anti-fraud team discovered millions of pounds of fraudulent activity relating to tenancies and the Government's right to buy scheme.

The team managed to recover 63 illegally sublet council houses after an investigation and a tenancy fraud ‘amnesty’ held last year.

Each house is worth £150,000 – the average cost of building a new social housing unit – giving a total figure of £9.4m.

During the same time, the team successfully prevented 11 instances of people attempting to take advantage of the Right to Buy scheme despite not being entitled to take part.

This gives tenants the chance to buy the property they are living in with a discount of £100,000, meaning the team prevented £1.1m of fraud from being committed.

More

27 Jun 2014

Oxford gets round to announcing keys amnesty

Back in October last year, Barnet Council decided on a keys amnesty to allow the keys of illegally sublet houses to be returned without any penalty.

Now the dynamic officials at Oxford City Council are planning to hold an amnesty from August (yes, that's August 2014) to encourage people illegally letting out their council properties to leave their homes without the authority taking them to court.

The Oxford Mail explains that it costs the city council around £2,000 to take a case through civil court without the tenant contesting it. For every person or family being temporarily housed while on the waiting lists, the council spends £18,000 a year.

Since 2011 the city council has claimed 50 homes back from those subletting them, says the paper, resulting in a saving of £900,000.

No ... that's the annual saving. Which is massive enough. Over the last few years, the saving has been several million pounds.

City council spokesman Louisa Dean said:
The aim of the tenancy fraud amnesty is to raise awareness with the public, not just our tenants and to encourage the reporting of illegal activity. It is also to make the public aware that sub-letting of social housing is now a criminal offence and therefore act as a deterrent to those considering subletting and show that the council is taking all possible steps to tackle the problem of the lack of affordable housing in Oxford.
Social housing fraud is the wickedest welfare fraud. The sums that can be saved are huge, but it's so much more than the money - needy families are being deprived of the chance to have a settled home that suits their needs.