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Showing posts with label social housing fraud. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social housing fraud. Show all posts

19 Aug 2019

Landlord cons council into giving him a home for 10 years

A man cheated Slough Borough Council out of nearly £50,000 after he claimed he needed a house despite actually being a landlord.

Gavin Lescott, 41, was in the process of buying a property with his brother when he applied to be placed on the council's housing register in 2006.

He went on to buy a home in Manor Park, Slough, which he let out to tenants. In the meantime, he accepted a council house to live in in Britwell.

He also failed to declare he owned a property when he applied for benefits in 2017.

Reading Crown Court ordered him to pay £48,000 by October 25, or face 18 months in prison.

This was deemed to be the total criminal benefit from illegally obtaining the tenancy and residing there for more than 10 years.

He has also been ordered to pay full council prosecution costs of £6,816 at the Proceeds of Crime Act hearing on Friday, July 26.

It comes after he admitted three offences under the Fraud Act 2006 for making false representations and failing to disclose information he was legally obliged to disclose, intending to make a gain for himself.

He was given a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, when he was sentenced for the offences in May at Reading Crown Court.

He was also ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and 10 days of rehabilitation which was aimed at helping him to understand the consequences of his actions and choices.

Lescott agreed to move out of the house in Woodford Way and voluntarily returned the keys to the council at the end of June 2019, which means the council did not have to formally evict him and incur extra civil court costs.

The house is now in the process of being rented out to another family on the council housing register.

Slough Borough Councillor Mohammed Nazir, cabinet member for housing and community safety, said:
We will not tolerate those individuals who seek to defraud the local taxpayer. 
Social and council housing is there to provide much needed homes for our residents, not to generate illicit profits for dishonest tenants. 
The council will continue to take tough action against those unscrupulous individuals who seek to deny vulnerable families a roof over their heads. We will always push for the harshest punishments where we find people defrauding not just the council but the children, families and hard working residents on our housing register.
Source

14 Aug 2019

Suspended sentence for social housing fraud

A fraudster who pretended to be the nephew of a dead man in a bid to take over his council home has been given a two year suspended prison sentence. (h/t Cornerstone)

Shafiqur Rahman, from Stepney Green, applied to take over the tenancy in June 2016 claiming he had been living with the Tower Hamlets Homes tenant at the one bedroom flat in Headlam Street, Whitechapel.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said:
Housing fraud is a selfish act and results in much needed homes being denied to those in genuine need. We will always seek to take strong action against those acting illegally."
Rahman submitted an extensive list of documents to prove he lived at the flat including utilities bills, a council tax bill, bank statements, a car insurance certificate, a HM Customs & Revenue letter, birth certificates, an accountant's letter, housing benefit applications and council tax rebate.

But the soundness of some documents raised suspicions and triggered an investigation by Tower Hamlets Council's specialist housing fraud team.

Officers gathered evidence from utility, insurance and accountancy firms along with the council's own records to confirm a number of documents were fake.

One of the deceased tenant's care workers stated he hadn't seen any family members at the home apart from a relative who visited twice a year.

The tenant also told him most of his family lived in Scotland.

A friend, who supported the man after his wife died, confirmed he lived alone and had been cared for by social services. He knew nothing of Rahman and confirmed his friend had never mentioned him.

The 43-year-old pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud at Snaresbrook Crown Court on July 4.

He was sentenced at the same court on Thursday, August 1. He received 150 hours of unpaid work, a four month curfew and will have to pay the council's £6,000 legal costs.

Cllr Sirajul Islam, deputy mayor and cabinet member for housing, said: "Many congratulations to all those who worked on what I know was a lengthy and complex investigation.

"With more than 20,000 people on our housing list, any property which is recovered is crucial."

This is why social housing fraud is particularly wicked.

Source


6 Aug 2019

Wealden's fraud team reports savings of over £400k

Wealden District Council’s counter fraud team saved the authority more than £400,000 in the last financial year.

The team investigated 69 cases in 2018/19, which when combined resulted in the council either recovering or saving £412,332.

Introducing the report, David Palmer, the council’s head of business services, said the team had been formed in 2014 as a result of a rise in cases in recent years, which he attributed to the effects of austerity.

He said: “Austerity has really caused more risks to be taken by the public. We didn’t used to have a large amount of fraud against the council, certainly not detected fraud against the council.

“The only thing we really had to rely on in the past, was a thing called the National Fraud Initiative. That still exists but is a bit behind than what we do here and still doesn’t yield great results by comparison.

“The National Fraud Initiative would have found about £30,000 in the last year, but you will see from your report, that we detected and effectively stopped fraud of £412,000. The team was formed in 2014 and since then has stopped fraud of approaching £2m.”

Since 2014, Mr Palmer said, the counter fraud team has shifted its approach, concentrating on prevention.

This prevention work currently focuses on Right to Buy applications, which are checked to ensure claims are genuine and the applicant is in a position to proceed with the purchase.

According to the report, the checks are made to ensure the council is not being used for money laundering purposes or that the applicant is purchasing on behalf of a third party.

Two such applications were stopped during the year saving a total discount of £145,900, the report says.

The report also notes an increase in the number of social housing fraud referrals being investigated, rising by 15 per cent on the previous year to a total of 20 cases. When combined, these investigations saw the council save £233,260, the report said.

Of the 69 cases investigated by the team, 16 related to investigations connected to Wealden’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS). During the year, investigations connected to council tax (including both CTRS and single person discount schemes) saw £77,261 of fraud proven.

Source

23 May 2019

Council house fraudster told to pay almost £40k

A woman who narrowly avoided jail after falsely gaining a council house has been ordered to pay costs of almost £40,000.

Annet Nemah Umuzia Cox failed to disclose her status as a homeowner when applying for council housing with Dudley Council.

She pleaded guilty to housing fraud in December, when she was sentenced to six months custody, suspended for 12 months.

Dudley Council have since taken further court action, and bosses are ordering Cox to pay a confiscation order for £39,883.30 – with £34,407.50 to be paid as compensation to the council.

Cox provided a false housing application to gain access to a Dudley Council property, which the council made specific adaptations amounting to £29,439.70.

The council also paid the rent, £2,078.37, and council tax, £399.84, at the property whilst it was being adapted due to it taking some time to undertake the adaptations.

When Cox moved into the property, her owned property was then rented out privately creating an income of £5,240.

Had she declared her correct circumstances, Cox would not have been eligible for a Dudley Council tenancy.

Alan Lunt, deputy chief executive and strategic director for place, said: "Housing fraud is a very serious matter and those who are tempted to try and cheat the system should be reminded that we will investigate and pursue thoroughly all instances of wrongdoing.

"Our priority is rightly focused upon those who are most deserving and we will continue to help those who are most in need of council housing."

Failure for Cox to pay could result in imprisonment. She is no longer a council tenant.

Source

5 Feb 2019

North East authorities attack tenancy fraud

North East councils and housing providers are working together to help prevent tenancy fraud and the billions of pounds it costs taxpayers.

The partners, from the North East Tenancy Fraud Forum, have organised a week-long campaign to raise awareness of the harm caused by tenancy fraud and how it can be reported.

Tenancy Fraud Awareness Week runs from Monday 4 to Friday 8 February and will highlight the different types of tenancy fraud, including:

  • Unlawful subletting – where a tenant lets out their council or housing association home without the knowledge or permission of their landlord;
  • Abandonment – where a tenant leaves their socially rented property, has no intention to return and does not inform the landlord;
  • Obtaining housing by deception – where a person gets a council or housing association home by giving false information in their application;
  • Right to Buy/Acquire – where a tenant has applied for or completed the purchase of a socially rented home under the Right to Buy/Right to Acquire Scheme when they are not entitled, or misrepresented their circumstances to gain a discount;
  • Wrongly claimed succession – where a tenant dies or moves out and someone, who is not entitled to, tries to take over or succeed the tenancy;
  • Unlawful assignment – where a resident stops using their tenancy as their main or principal home, allowing another person to live there without permission;
  • Key selling – where a tenant is paid to pass on their keys in return for a one-off payment;

Members of the public will be able to access key messages from the campaign via social media, where forum members will be posting using the hashtag #NEHousingFraud, focusing on a different theme each day.

Between 2013-16, the UK Fraud Costs Measurement Committees Annual Fraud Indicator estimated that the cost of tenancy fraud across England was £1.8billion. Tenancy fraud continues to cause problems both financially and by depriving people who genuinely need a home.

Steven Graham, Durham County Council’s corporate fraud officer and joint chair of the North East Tenancy Fraud Forum said: “The North East Tenancy Fraud Forum is determined to protect the council, partners and the public from fraud and corruption. In order to do this, we are committed to developing a culture of zero tolerance. We view any act of fraud or attempted fraud very seriously and all reported instances of potential fraud or corruption will be investigated promptly and, where proven, appropriate action will be taken.

“Anyone concerned about possible fraud or corruption concerning tenancy fraud is encouraged to report it”.

Tenancy fraud can be reported by contacting the local council or housing provider.

Amy Hodgson, Northumberland County Council corporate fraud investigator and joint chair of the North East Tenancy Fraud Forum, continued: “In particular, the forum is committed to tackling social housing fraud, to ensure that more properties are available for those in genuine need.

“Good housing provision has been proven to have a positive impact on education, health and the social care needs of a community, so the wider potential benefits to hard-working families are very important.

“As well as the obvious benefit of protecting the public purse, tackling problems such as property abandonment can also help prevent problems with anti-social behaviour, and vandalism in a community.”

Source

10 Sep 2018

Bromsgrove team claims £140k housing fraud savings

THE anti-fraud team at Bromsgrove District Housing Trust (BDHT) has saved the organisation and its customers £140,000 by successfully targeting those seeking to secure social homes they are not legally entitled to.

With housing fraud on the rise, the trust set up a dedicated team 18 months ago to investigate suspected fraud under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2012.

Working with the National Anti-Fraud Network and residents the team was able to identify fraudulent activity and, where necessary, reclaimed properties for eligible tenants.

BDHT’s communities first manager Annette Trow said: “We take housing fraud very seriously as it strips away money desperately needed to provide homes for those in urgent need of social housing.

“We have seen a particular increase in right-to-buy fraud, where we have received a request to buy a property but we discovered that the named tenant was no longer living at the address and someone else, usually a relative, was trying to purchase the property at a reduced rate.”

Fraud is a criminal offence and has severe consequences, potentially carrying a prison sentence of up to ten years.

BDHT’s chief executive Mark Robertson added: “It is sad that it was necessary for us to develop an anti-fraud team to combat the issues we and other housing associations are facing from a relatively small number of residents.”

Source

On the face of it, for a team of five to save £140,000 (over eighteen months?) doesn't look like a strong return, but we are not told how the figure was calculated.

16 Aug 2018

Trust saves £140k in fight against social housing fraud

A housing trust sicced its own anti-fraud team onto scammers (no, I don't know what that means) to save around £140,000 over the past year.

Now, with the final figures in, bdht’s (Bromsgrove District Housing Trust) is pledging that “outstanding” saving towards the development of affordable homes.

Mark Robertson, bdht chief executive, acknowledged “sadness” at the need for an anti-fraud team combat the issues faced from a relatively small number of residents:
However, in response, the team is doing a fantastic job of scrutinising our service provision to ensure only those who are lawfully entitled to properties are allocated them. To have saved £140,000 in one year alone is astounding and this money can now be put towards our programme of providing new affordable homes in Bromsgrove as part of our attempt of solving the dire housing crisis we face.
The team targets scammers seeking to secure bdht homes that they are not legally entitled to and was set up 18 months ago to investigate suspected offences under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2012.

Working with the National Anti-Fraud Network, as well as local residents , the team is able to identify fraudulent activity and, where necessary, reclaim properties which can then be passed onto rightful tenants.

bdht’s Communities First Manager, Annette Trow, explains:
We take housing fraud very seriously at bdht, as it strips away money that is desperately needed to provide homes for those in urgent need of social housing. We have seen a particular increase in right-to-buy fraud, where we have received a request to buy a property but we discovered that the named tenant was no longer living at the address and someone else, usually a relative, was trying to purchase the property at a reduced rate.
The offences investigated carry potential prison sentences of up to 10 years.

These particular cases not only consist of right-to-buy fraud, but also abandonment/sublet fraud which all come under the 2012 Act.

As a provider, bdht owns or manages one in ten properties in the immediate Bromsgrove area.

With a total of 3,927 properties in its portfolio, bdht has a stock investment value of £510m.

Source

2 Aug 2018

Lambeth recovers 60 properties in 12 months

Thirty three cases of internal fraud were reported to Lambeth Council during the 2017/18 financial year. This led to ten dismissals and two prosecutions.

The details are contained in the Internal Audit and Counter Fraud Annual Report 2017/18 report. This will be considered in more detail when the Corporate Committee meets on 26 July.

The report also states that 79 properties were recommended for recovery. This resulted in 60 being recovered by the Council.

The number of Council Tax frauds has increased: fraudulent payments total £48,037 which is an increase of 175% compared to 2016/17.

Another area where fraud has taken place in the misuse of blue badge parking. This led to forty two prosecutions by Lambeth Council.

More

17 May 2018

Immigrant took council flat when she owned a property

A self-confessed cheating council tenant who raked in £31,000 renting her private flat claims she will be made homeless - because she has to pay it all back.

The News caught up with Irina Serstena after she appeared before Peterborough Crown Court for the outcome of a Proceeds Of Crime Act application.

The 41-year-old, who is from Latvia, had been renting out a flat she owned while living in a coucil property in St Neots.

Serstena, who now lives in the flat she owns in Gabriel Court, Peterborough, was living in the council flat in Loves Way.

She pleaded guilty to two offences under the Fraud Act 2006 by applying for social housing when she already owned a property.

Huntingdonshire District Council’s Corporate Fraud Team discovered Serstena bought the flat in August 2011 and failed to declare this to the council while applying for social housing.

She continued to bid for social housing and in October 2011 successfully and illegally bid for the Loves Way property, moving there in November 2011 while renting out the flat she owned for the last six years.

Serstena originally appeared at court on December 15, 2017 and, as a result of pleading guilty, was sentenced to a 12-month community order concurrent in respect of each offence with a requirement for 150 hours unpaid work.

She did her community service in a charity shop.

She told the News: "I was thinking at the hearing that no one listened to my story or even asked about it. What I have done is wrong and I feel terrible about that and I regret it but there is another side to the story.

"When I arrived in the UK after Latvia joined the EU in 2004 and I came to this country to seek a better life. To start with I did what they said with all the immigration rules and signed up for the working scheme and spent years before I could apply for the residents' permit.

"It took six years before I could get leave to remain. We were not allowed to ask for benefits or apply for a council property and i lived in shared houses and worked hard."

She said: "I was struggling and someone said the council would help and I applied to get on the waiting list. I was on it for five years and nothing happened. I did bid for several flats but didn't get them. I thought I'd never get one.

"I moved into a one bedroom maisonette and was working in a supermarket but after rent and bills, I had nothing left. I would have no money five days after I was paid and I asked the council for help but they said they couldn't help me.

"I moved in with friends and let the council know. The friends had to leave the flat and so did I and I told the council I was being made homeless. I asked again for help twice and they didn't help.

"Then I asked my mum for help. I had been sending money home to her in Latvia and she had saved it all up. She gave it back to me and that's when I put the deposit down on the flat in Peterborough.

"I forgot to notify the council and I really didn't think it mattered as it had never offered me a flat. The property I bought looked good at first but was in a bad state and I had to spend a lot fixing it up.

"Then out of the blue the council called me up and asked if I still needed a flat - I stupidly said yes I need it. So I moved into the St Neots property and started renting the Peterborough flat as I wasn't working and had no money.

"I thought I'd give up the council property when I can move into the Peterborough flat but had a tricky time with the tenants and the flat flooded and I had to wait for the insurance money to totally refurbish it and that's when the problem started because I was caught by the fraud team and taken to court.

"I now have to pay back £33,000 and will have to sell my flat to do it and then will probably be homeless and have to apply for another council flat.

"I am a taxi driver and work 60 hours a week but my last year's wage was £14,000.

"It wasn't my intention to cheat someone. To survive as a single person is tough. I can apologise but do not judge me or you will be judged because you don't know what's going to happen tomorrow and I cannot change what has happened."

On April 13, His Honour Judge Lowe made a confiscation order for Serstena to pay £31,184.62 in full within six months or face a one year prison sentence. Costs of £1,200 were also awarded to the council.

She said: "I have put the flat on the market as I have to pay back the £33,000 by October. If I don't sell the flat I don't know what I will do and my accountant says I may only have £5,000 left after selling the flat and paying the money back."

Oliver Morley, the council's corporate director of services, said: "We work hard to ensure cheats are not going to get away with it in Huntingdonshire. We take housing those that need it very seriously and, as this case shows, we use all powers at our disposal to pursue those that illegally claim help they are not entitled to.”

Source with pictures and video

23 Apr 2018

Small fine for 2 years' illegal sub-letting

A council house tenant has been fined for subletting following an investigation by Plymouth anti-fraud detectives.

Dean Kelly admitted subletting his council flat in Clifton Road, Exeter, from 28 September 2014 until August 2016.

The 46-year-old pleaded guilty to the offence at Plymouth Magistrates Court and was fined £325, ordered to pay back the £5,985 he benefited from by subletting the property, a victim surcharge of £32 and £450 costs.

The court heard that at the time of the offence, Kelly was working away in the county where he was staying with his girlfriend.

He decided to sublet his council property to a friend of his mother and arranged for the unlawful sub-tenant to pay £540 a month into his bank account.

This amount was later increased to £590 and then £610 a month.

An investigation, carried out by Plymouth City Council's Fraud Team on behalf of the Devon Tenancy Fraud Group, was started after an anonymous telephone caller alleged that the tenant was not occupying the property but was instead sub-letting it to someone else.

Ken Johnson, Corporate Fraud Team Manager, said: “This case is yet another successful prosecution against a social housing fraudster, in this case one who was making a profit at the expense of those in genuine need. Fraudsters divert money and resources from already pressurised front line council services and should not be tolerated. This and other results should serve notice on offenders that we will not only combat fraud in Plymouth but across the region.”

After the case, an Exeter City Council spokesman said that social housing fraud costs the UK economy £1.8 billion a year.

“At a time when social housing is at a premium, this criminal behaviour is totally unacceptable," he said.

“Exeter City Council has a zero tolerance approach to fraud and will continue to protect the public purse. Fraudulent activity diverts money and resources from those who legitimately have need of council services and contributes to higher council tax bills."

Source

20 Apr 2018

Cheating council tenant rakes in £31k renting out her private flat

A cheating council tenant raked in £31,000 renting her private flat but has been caught out and will have to cough up all the cash or go to jail. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Irina Serstena appeared before Peterborough Crown Court on April 13 to hear the outcome of a Proceeds Of Crime Act application.

Serstena, from Peterborough and previously of Loves Way, St Neots, pleaded guilty to two offences under the Fraud Act 2006 by applying for social housing when she already owned a property and was renting it out privately.

Huntingdonshire District Council’s Corporate Fraud Team launched an investigation following information received from housing association BPHA, which was the landlord of her property in Loves Way.

Investigators discovered Serstena bought a flat in Gabriel Court in Peterborough in August 2011 and failed to declare this to the council while applying for social housing.

She continued to bid for social housing and in October 2011, she successfully and illegally bid for a property in Loves Way, St Neots and moved there in November 2011.

But the investigation found Serstena had been renting out the flat she owned in Peterborough for the last six years and receiving the money while she continued to live in the Loves Way property.

Serstena originally appeared at court on December 15, 2017 and, as a result of pleading guilty, was sentenced to a 12-month Community Order concurrent in respect of each offence with a requirement for 150 hours unpaid work.

On April 13, His Honour Judge Lowe made a confiscation order for Serstena to pay £31,184.62 in full within six months or face a one year prison sentence. Costs of £1,200 were also awarded to the council.

Oliver Morley, the council's Corporate Director of Services, said “We work hard to ensure cheats are not going to get away with it in Huntingdonshire. We take housing those that need it very seriously and, as this case shows, we use all powers at our disposal to pursue those that illegally claim help they are not entitled to. We are proud to work closely with partners and this case should show how hard we work to protect public services and money.”

Source

19 Apr 2018

Sisters jailed for social housing frauds

A shamed council housing officer who pretended to be homeless as she scammed her employer has been ordered to repay £20,000. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Zara Danyaal used fake IDs to blag her way into three council tenancies - denying homes to those in genuine need.

She carried out the fraud whilst working as a senior housing needs officer for Birmingham City Council .

But Danyaal was rumbled when the council began a probe.

She was later sacked and, in June 2016, jailed for two-and-a-half years at Birmingham Crown Court for one charge relating to social housing fraud and a further six months for two offences relating to job references.

Now Danyaal, 38, from Acocks Green, has been ordered to repay £20,000 in compensation to her former employers under a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing.

Her sister, Samara Malik, 28, also from Acocks Green, was involved in the scam and was jailed for ten months for an offence of social housing fraud,

Robert James, director of housing at Birmingham City Council, said: “We welcome this hearing result which recognises the severity of the crime committed. The act of fraud prevented several families from being housed and since discovering these actions, Birmingham City Council has been proactive from the start in pursuing and bringing the perpetrators to justice. The compensation now received will be reinvested by the council to prevent further acts of fraud from being committed.”

He said the authority was committed to protecting the public funds.

“It is imperative that losses from fraud and corruption are, where possible, eradicated to ensure that resources are used to provide essential services for citizens. Our counter fraud team uses sophisticated data analysis to detect fraud and anyone who commits, or attempts to commit, fraudulent or corrupt acts against the council will be held to account in a decisive manner.”

Source

17 Apr 2018

Social housing fraudster must pay £54k

A social housing fraudster has been found guilty of illegally sub-letting a home in Islington.

Patrick Ofori-Sampong, 50, was found to have two homes, one with Peabody and one with another landlord in Waltham Forest.

He was illegally subletting the Peabody property while living in another he bought under Right to Buy. He was exploiting a sub-tenant who was paying him inflated rent.

He pleaded guilty to one offence under the housing fraud act and one under the prevention of social housing fraud act last month and was given a two year sentence suspended for 18 months, meaning he avoids jail.

Ofori-Sampong must also do 180 hours of unpaid work, pay an unlawful profit order of £5,100 and pay Peabody £45,000 compensation within six months, as well as £4,000 in costs. He surrendered his tenancy, freeing up the property for someone on the 18,000-strong council waiting list.

Last year the council only let 1,172 properties – to 6 per cent of applicants. The Audit Commission has estimated tenancy fraud costs the taxpayer £1.8bn a year and could amount to as many as 160,000 fraudulent tenancies in London.

Andrew Jeffries, Peabody’s tenancy fraud chief said: “We are pleased to have recovered this property so we can provide a decent and much needed home to someone from the Islington Council housing waiting list. Anybody who tries to defraud the public out of social housing can expect to be prosecuted and incur significant costs.”

Source

Social housing fraud is the most wicked form of 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 meets their needs.

14 Feb 2018

Light sentence for social housing fraud

A woman has been kicked out of her council house after admitting she already owned a three-bedroom home.

Gillian Norris has been living in social housing in Great Milton for more than four years, having fraudently applied via the housing register.

The 46-year-old has been ordered to pay £1,530 after councils discovered she already owned a home in Holyhead, Wales, at the time of applying.

Councillors said she 'deprived a family in genuine need of a house', and stressed social housing fraud is not a 'victimless crime'.

Norris, of Green Hitchings in Great Milton, pleaded guilty at Oxford Magistrates' Court to one charge of knowingly or recklessly making a false statement in connection to the allocation of housing.

It is the first time someone has been convicted for housing fraud in South Oxfordshire.

Magistrates heard she had been living in the three-bedroom SOHA Housing house, and had been renting out her other home to a family member.

Norris would not have been eligible to apply for social housing if she had disclosed that she already owned the property.

She was caught following an anonymous tip-off and subsequent investigation by SOHA Housing, South Oxfordshire District Council and Oxford City Council.

Following her guilty plea on January 30, Norris was fined £250 and ordered to pay £1,250 and a £30 victim surcharge.

Jane Murphy, deputy leader of the district council, said: “Social housing is there to provide a vital resource for those who are in genuine need and do not have the money available to rent a home privately. We have a significant housing shortage, not just in South Oxfordshire but across the country, with people really struggling to find appropriate accommodation. By making and maintaining this fraudulent claim this lady has effectively deprived a family in genuine need of a house.”

The councils are now working make the home available again on the housing register.

More

This is a trivial sentence for taking up social housing for four years.

17 Nov 2017

17 month investigation for social housing fraud

Reading Borough Council shows how to make a mountain out of a molehill. This just is not competent, cost-effective enforcement.

They didn't even discover the offence for themselves, it came as a result of a tip off.


A tenant who illegally sub-let his council flat has been convicted of fraud and ordered to pay hundreds of pounds. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Victor Carrington, formerly of Granville Road, admitted to two counts of fraud at Reading Magistrates' Court on November 10 after being under the microscope since November 2015.

He was fined a total of £743, with an additional £600 in costs awarded to Reading Borough Council.

The council's fraud investigation team had a tip-off from concerned residents.

Carrington had been a council tenant since 2005, but after leaving the address, he sub-let the property to his friend without informing the council that he was no longer living there.

Reading Borough Council leader Jo Lovelock said:
There has never been more demand for social housing and the council has duty to ensure social homes are available to those that need them. This prosecution shows the council will not tolerate tenancy fraud. The council will investigate all cases robustly and where offences are uncovered take the necessary legal action to recover the property.
During a 17-month investigation, housing officers used banking and CCTV evidence.

When they arranged to visit the property, Carrington ensured he was available to see them and completed false statements confirming he still lived at the address.

He also failed to disclose that someone else was living at the flat.

The property has now been let to another council tenant after being returned to the council in June.

Carrington admitted one count of fraud and another of prevention of social housing fraud.

Source

16 Nov 2017

Tenancy fraud in north east England

Northumberland County Council is leading the way on tenancy fraud in the region, following the establishment of the North East Tenancy Fraud Forum (NE-TFF) earlier this year. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Set up by the county council's corporate fraud team, the forum membership includes registered social landlords and local authorities from across the North East.

To raise awareness of tenancy fraud, the NE-TFF is campaigning across the region this week as part of International Fraud Awareness Week and will cover areas including abandonment, subletting and misrepresentation. The council’s fraud team are encouraging residents to report any suspected fraudulent behaviour and will investigate any reports made.

It is estimated that tenancy fraud costs the country more than £50million a year, leaving families who are in desperate need of secure and affordable housing in temporary accommodation.

This is a huge underestimate - see previous post.

The awareness week will focus around four key themes:
  • Abandonment of properties by tenants which can lead to squatting and vandalism of properties. The team have been working alongside housing officers since April 2014 and has successfully recovered 18 properties from abandonment, which are now being used as social housing;
      
  • False applications for social properties, including false homeless applications;
      
  • Right to Buy fraud, which includes providing false information on Right to Buy or Right to Acquire applications and buying a property through a third party. In the past 12 months, Northumberland County Council has withdrawn 30 Right to Buy applications, further saving £1.2million in discounts;
      
  • Unlawful subletting of properties, where a tenant rents out their home without the knowledge or permission of the landlord.
New legislation has given investigators powers to obtain more information when investigating tenancy fraud to ensure fraudsters are caught and made accountable for their actions.

Coun John Riddle, cabinet member for housing, said: "International Fraud Awareness Week is an excellent opportunity to spread knowledge and awareness across the county and the region on tenancy fraud.

"Tenancy fraud can lead to anti-social behaviour in neighbourhoods and leaves families who are in desperate need of housing on the waiting list, and in temporary accommodation. Cracking down on tenancy fraud will undoubtedly benefit many families across the county."

15 Nov 2017

The annual cost of tenancy fraud

According to The Stack (h/t Tenancy Fraud)
There are currently 1,174 housing associations operating in the UK, providing accommodation to local councils for those on low incomes or who need extra support. However, issues such as social housing fraud, which the University of Portsmouth estimates is costing the UK £1.76 billion a year, are making it increasingly harder to provide the right service to citizens in need.
The Audit Commission put the cost of social housing tenancy fraud to the taxpayer nationally at £1.8 billion in 2012, so this certainly isn't an extreme estimate.

Remember, this is an annual figure. And it's additional to more conventional benefit fraud, which even parts of the government admit are over £2bn, but which is probably nearer £5bn in all.

27 Oct 2017

Illegal immigrants in social housing fraud

A former Erith resident has been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment after she pretended to be homeless to gain accommodation. (h/t TenancyFraud)

Annebel Nwanebi, formerly of Pembroke Road, did not have legal status in the UK, but fraudulently claimed to be the homeless partner of Charles Douglas, a European national entitled to housing.

The case was heard at the Inner London Crown Court in August.

Sentencing, Judge Wright QC said it was a "sophisticated and enduring fraud" recognising that "social housing is in short supply in London and your actions deprived a family of that."

Ms Nwanebi had approached the London Borough of Bexley for housing in August 2014, claiming that she, her partner, Charles Douglas, and their family were homeless, having been evicted from their previous privately rented accommodation.

They were given temporary accommodation in Dartford.

In April 2015, Ms Nwsanebi and Mr Douglas were nominated for a newly-built home in Erith Park estate, but an employee of Orbit housing association suspected their case was fraud and investigated with council officers.

On visiting the temporary accommodation, the tenancy fraud officer found Ms Nwanebi living there with her husband and son – not with Mr Douglas.

During the investigation, there was no trace of Mr Douglas. His identity and status as an EEA national was being used to get social housing because Ms Nwanebi and her husband did not have a legal status in the UK.

Cabinet member for adult services, Councillor Brad Smith, said: “By passing down a custodial sentence, the Judge in this case has sent a clear message to anyone who thinks they can obtain accommodation illegally. We won’t think twice about prosecuting anyone who takes away the chance of a home for a law abiding family who are in genuine need.”

Ms Nwanebi was found guilty of making false representations to obtain accommodation and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.

Andrew Meyer, head of housing at Orbit, said: “The sentence given is reflective of the deception committed by Ms Nwanebi and sends out a strong message to anyone contemplating a similar act."

Source

25 Oct 2017

Housing fraudster jailed

A fraudster who used another man’s identity to gain a council job and home as well as thousands in benefits has been jailed, a London council has reported. (h/t Fraudmanager)

An investigation by Royal Greenwich revealed Christian Ikediashi, formerly of Dawson Close, Woolwich, had used the identity documents of another man to get a job as a waste operative with the council in October 2009.

Mr Ikediashi held the post until 2013 when he was dismissed for continuous absence.

In 2010, he then used the same identity to submit a housing application to Royal Greenwich. He was given a one bedroom flat in May 2013.

The investigation also found that from August 2012 to July 2016 Mr Ikediashi had obtained Housing Benefit totalling £13,595 with the same false identity and papers.

Officers in the Royal Borough’s Internal Audit & Anti-Fraud team became suspicious when a National Fraud Initiative data matching exercise found that the man who Mr Ikediashi pretended to be had a council tenancy in another London borough.

Mr Ikediashi was charged with four Fraud Act offences and two offences under the Social Security Administration Act 1992. Cllr Maureen O’Mara, cabinet member for Customer Services, said: ‘This is a great example of the good results that can come from partnership working between the Royal Borough and various agencies. Had it not been for the National Fraud Initiative identifying that two council tenancies were held in the same identity this case may have never come to notice and Mr Ikediashi would have continued to defraud us of a much needed Council home. With the Royal Borough investigators collating all the evidence and locating him in Manchester there was only going to be one outcome for Mr Ikediashi and I am pleased to hear he has now gone to prison.’

‘Thanks should also go the Greater Manchester Police who assisted our officers all the way,’ she added.

Source

Social housing fraud is wicked, because it denies a home to someone needy.

13 Oct 2017

Oxford recovers 21 social housing properties IN ONE YEAR

Oxford City Council's Investigation Service saved the Council £5.1 million in 2016/17, recovering 21 social housing properties that were in the hands of non-authorised occupants, and sifting out 33 fraudulent right-to-buy applications. (h/t Fraudmanager)

That was just in one year.

How much could that be nationally? Every year?