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

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?

13 Sep 2017

Sandwell counter-fraud team's successes

Sandwell Council’s highly successful counter fraud team has been praised for making huge savings after a series of investigations into benefits, house sales and financial dealings.

The team – which has been shortlisted in the Government’s Counter Fraud Awards scheme, Fraud Team of the Year category – works with a wide range of council departments and partner organisations to seek out possible frauds and other finance-based problems in the borough.

A special counter fraud report highlights its many successes – achieving almost £10 million in actual and notional savings after a range of inquiries in the last 12 months.

Councillor Steve Trow, cabinet member for core council services, said: “This is an excellent report which highlights the many successes of the unit and emphasises that the council is committed to operating a zero tolerance on fraud, corruption and bribery. The work by the counter fraud unit shows that the team thoroughly investigates in a wide variety of areas involving suspected or reported fraudulent activities and has come up with excellent results and huge savings. All matters will be fully investigated and appropriate action will be taken to recover money stolen from the council and deter future instances, whether it be by penalties or, if necessary and in the public interest, by prosecution.”

The team helped the council to save more than £500,000 after investigating incorrect and potentially fraudulent claims for the 25 per cent Single Person Discount on council tax. On top of that, there were 73 cases where people were issued with a penalty charge of £70, leading to £5,110 being collected by the council. Penalties have been introduced by the council to deter incorrect or fraudulent claims, and to encourage people to promptly report changes in circumstances.

Work by the team also led to big savings in housing benefits and council tax reduction, with £78,000 in overpayments being identified.

Their work in social housing fraud led to huge notional savings for the council. The Cabinet Office calculates the cost of social housing tenancy fraud as a notional £93,000 per property. In Sandwell, 73 properties were recovered, which, using the Cabinet Office’s calculation, amounts to a notional £6,789,000 saving.

The team also stopped 67 fraudulent applications, before keys were handed over, achieving an estimated £36,000 notional saving per application, or £2,412,000 in total. This all amounts to a total notional saving of £9.2 million in relation to social housing tenancy fraud.

Investigations continue into the Right to Buy frauds where five applications, worth a total value of £206,000 in discount, were removed as a direct result of the team’s inquiries.

Source

9 Aug 2017

Man fined for false homeless claim

A less usual type of social housing fraud

A Lingfield man has been ordered to pay £1,864 after he made a false claim that one of his relatives was homeless to help them get a home in Mole Valley. (h/t Tenancyfraud)

Ian Day was sentenced at Guildford Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, July 26 after he was found to have provided information to Mole Valley District Council's Housing Team which was not true. It was discovered that Day had provided information which helped a relative of his have a homeless application accepted.

The 58-year-old claimed his relative had been homeless for almost two years, when in fact he was living in a property in East Grinstead, in West Sussex.

Day had falsely maintained he was the tenant of the East Grinstead home, but after Mole Valley District Council carried out an investigation, it appeared it was his relative who was the tenant and not Day. If the correct information had been supplied, his relative would never have been registered as homeless or deemed to be in need of accommodation.

Councillor Corinna Osborne-Patterson, who is Mole Valley District Council's executive member for communities, services and housing, said: "Social housing is a limited resource, and it is important that the any offers of accommodation are made to those in genuine need. When applying for accommodation, it is important that people provide honest and truthful information. Failure to do so could be an offence and legal action may be taken.

"As shown in this case, Mole Valley District Council will take legal action against those who it believes have misled or lied in any way in relation to a housing application whether it is the applicant or those supporting them."

After the relative left the property, it was found to have sustained damage and they owed "significant rent arrears and costs".

When sentenced, Day was ordered to pay a fine of £1,320. He was also told to pay Mole Valley District Council's court costs, of £500, as well as a victim surcharge fee of £44.

Source

14 Jul 2017

BBFI discuss social housing fraud

BBFI agree with us about social housing fraud. They say

Social housing fraud is the wickedest form of welfare fraud. There’s more than the financial dimension: there isn’t enough social housing available, so every fraudulent occupation lengthens waiting lists, and every detection gives a family or individual in temporary accommodation a better life.

The Audit Commission put the cost of social housing tenancy fraud to the taxpayer nationally at £1.8 billion in 2012. Councils recovered nearly 1,800 homes in 2011, with a total replacement value of nearly £264 million. But this barely scratches the surface of the problem.

Experian suggests that at least 160,000 social homes are unlawfully sublet in the UK, but we believe this is a very low estimate. A study of social housing fraud in Westminster reported a raid on one Paddington housing block that revealed 75% of housing benefit claimants were not living in their registered properties and were illegally subletting them for thousands of pounds a week. Another raid, on the luxury 600-flat Park West development on Edgware Road, found 61% of claimants were subletting their properties. The cost of social housing fraud in the City of Westminster alone may be as much as £22 million a year.

Freeing up sublet properties would be the cheapest and quickest way to make more social housing available. There are 8 million council or housing association homes in England and 1.8 million households on the waiting list. Tackling subletting and property misuse could go a long way to releasing the 1.8 million homes to genuine tenants in waiting.

Of the 4.1 million socially owned homes 2.2 million are rented from local authorities, and 1.9 million from other social landlords. This is a national asset that needs to be protected from people who want to misuse that asset. That misuse takes many forms. For example, we will investigate:

  • Unlawful subletting, including subletting the whole property to a single household, and multiple sublets within one property
     
  • Non-occupation by tenants as their principal home
     
  • Wrongly claimed succession: retention of a tenancy following the death or vacation of the tenant following a previous succession, or of a non-qualifying person
     
  • Unlawful assignment
     
  • “Key selling”, where the tenant leaves the property and passes on the keys in return for a one-off lump sum payment or favour
     
  • Fraudulently obtaining a social housing tenancy, including misrepresentation of identity and misrepresentation of circumstances
  •  

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.

Source

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.

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