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Showing posts with label tenancy fraud. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tenancy fraud. Show all posts

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.

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

29 Sep 2017

Council crackdown uncovers millions of pounds worth of housing fraud

A crackdown has uncovered millions of pounds worth of housing fraud, according to council bosses. (h/t tenancyfraud)

Hundreds of cases of fraud or errors in applications for council housing were reported leading to dozens being marked as fraudulent.

East Dunbartonshire Council said the reports of fraud were up on previous years with almost 250 cases coming to their attention in the last year, with 42 marked fraud or containing errors.

Investigations led to 39 offers of a tenancy being withdrawn and a saving to the council coffers running into millions of pounds.

The council said each case of tenancy fraud costs and estimated £93,000 and affects others on the waiting list for housing.

The crackdown has, the council said, led to homes being unlocked for others who were further down the list who could have missed out.

The cost is estimated to be £3.6m saved.

The investigations also found three houses not to be occupied and they have since been reclaimed.

Another six homelessness applications were identified as having been made either fraudulently or in error.

The council said it has sent one case to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for consideration of criminal proceedings.

As well as the housing scams the fraud team also found Council Tax irregularities totalling £202,412, business rates evasion of £54,363 and employment-related fraud/theft of £1,139.

And on top of that a total of £89,337 was saved through the National Fraud Initiative.

The investigations across council departments found a range of fraudulent applications including for education places/funding requests and taxi licences.

Councillor Gordan Low, Leader of East Dunbartonshire Council, said, “Well done to everyone within the Corporate Fraud Team for their work over the past year. We have a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and corruption, and are committed to safeguarding public funds. Rest assured, we will continue to work with our partners to tackle all incidents of fraud - protecting the public purse and ensuring fairness as regards issues such as social housing, Council Tax and school placing requests.”

He urged the public to help the council by reporting any cases of fraud to help keep council costs down and protect council services.

Source

26 Apr 2017

Housing fraudster evicted

A Desborough woman who claimed she was homeless to secure council housing, despite owning two properties, has been evicted. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Carol Rae, 60, was convicted of tenancy fraud in August 2016 at Northampton Magistrates’ Court and fined £1,500 plus costs.

Rae had approached Kettering Council in May 2014 claiming to be homeless and, as a result, she was provided with temporary accommodation until she moved in to Hazeland House in 2014.

However, when applying for council housing, Mrs Rae failed to disclose that she already owned two properties for which she was receiving a substantial rental income.

Kettering Council has now evicted Rae from her council property.

At last!

Kettering Council’s head of housing John Conway said:
Where housing applicants lie, or fail to disclose their true circumstances to us, we will not hesitate to use the powers available to us to prosecute and evict offenders. It is wholly unacceptable for anyone to provide false information or withhold relevant information about being homeless in order to obtain housing from the council.

24 Mar 2017

New tech reveals 70 Gloucester homes may be occupied fraudulently

A Gloucester housing provider is using technology to combat tenancy fraud and release homes for those in genuine need.

Tenancy fraud is leaving many Gloucester families without a place to truly call home.

Across the county, unlawful tenants are blocking access to housing already in short supply from those in need, many of whom are being forced into temporary accommodation.

For Gloucester City Council, the issue has huge financial significance, with temporary accommodation a costly repercussion. If stamped out, money drained by tenancy fraud could be spent elsewhere.

Gloucester City Homes (GCH), which manages almost 5,000 properties across the county, decided to use data technology to take a proactive approach in tackling the issue. Since October 2016 it has been using Housing Partner's Insight software, which combines information on tenants from hundreds of sources, to set pointers for criminal activity.

Sara Hendry, Anti-Social Behaviour Manager at GCH, said: "Insight has notified us of 70 potential fraud alerts. From these, we're currently considering proceeding with two criminal convictions, both of which are sub-letting cases. In one, we have strong evidence of unlawful profit being made. Both properties have now been returned to us.

"Using this technology, it's easier to really get to know our tenants. We can see who needs our help with debt and money worries, and spot those that are potentially committing criminal offences."

It is estimated that around 50,000 housing association and council homes in the UK are occupied by someone who shouldn't live there.

Local councils in England have spent around £3.5bn on temporary accommodation over the last five years.

Before using Insight, GCH was using a combination of sources to identify and prevent fraud.

Manually collating information, the social landlord would consider things such as long periods of time without a repair reported or maintenance staff being unable to access properties for routine gas checks.

However, this method was time consuming and did not always identify fraud.

Source

This report is muddled, in that it fails to distinguish between City and County. 

But sadly there are more families needing social housing than could be housed even if all the fraudulently occupied accommodation became available.

14 Mar 2017

Hoddesdon catches up with keys amnesty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source

2 Mar 2017

Suspended sentence for illegal sub-letter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source

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

But where was the unlawful profit order?

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

29 Nov 2016

Bedford tenancy cheat ordered to pay £35,000

Omid Hashemi, of Alamein Avenue, Bedford, has been ordered to pay back almost £35,000 after being prosecuted for lying to obtain low cost social housing. Hashemi was also sentenced to a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

Hashemi was housed in social housing by bpha after claiming that he, his wife and his younger brother were living in overcrowded conditions.

However an investigation revealed that Hashemi owned a three bedroom house, purchased just three months before applying for housing, which he rented out for profit.

Hashemi, was prosecuted at Luton Crown Court where he pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud by false representation and was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years.

Following the conviction, joint working by Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Council enabled an application to be made to seize Hashemi’s assets. The court heard evidence that Hashemi benefited from his crime and ordered him to pay almost £35,000, which represented all of his available assets. The amount must be paid within three months or Hashemi will face nine months in prison.

Councillor Michael Headley, said: “There are families across the Borough who genuinely need a place to call home and those who commit tenancy fraud take these homes from those most in need. As well as disadvantaging other members of our community, tenancy fraud also increases pressure on other services at a time when Bedford Borough Council faces continued cuts in funding.”

Source

Note: The kicker punishment came not in the suspended sentence but in the order to repay £35,000.

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.

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

2 Oct 2015

North Tyneside reports on tenancy fraud

More than a dozen homes have been taken back as part of a crackdown on residents committing tenancy fraud.

In the past year, North Tyneside Council has taken back 17 properties after discovering the tenants were breaking the law.

A series of investigations found people illegally subletting their council homes, using false information to acquire a house and tenants not using their properties as their main or only home.

One case revealed a couple from North Shields claimed they were homeless to enable them to jump up the housing waiting list, even though one of them already had a council home, and they then sublet the spare property.

Another investigation found that a woman had bought her own home in Tynemouth, but at the same time, she was committing fraud by attempting to buy a North Shields council property, through the Right to Buy scheme, which she claimed to be living in.

Coun John Harrison, cabinet member for housing and transport, said:
Tenancy fraud prevents homes from being made available for families and individuals with a genuine and sometimes desperate need for council housing.”

As well as it putting a strain on our housing waiting list, it’s estimated that it costs local governments nationwide around £900 million per year– money which could be much better spent elsewhere – and North Tyneside Council will not tolerate it.

We take all reports of alleged tenancy fraud very seriously and will fully investigate reports using all the powers available to us to do so. We will also continue our robust checks those wishing to rent our properties
The 17 homes were recovered by the council using new powers introduced by the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013.

The act has seen tenancy fraud become a criminal matter – and local authorities now have the power to prosecute those who unlawfully sublet their social housing.

Source

23 Jul 2015

Benefits cheats take £900k from Sandwell Council in a year

More than 190 investigations were launched into fraud relating to benefits paid for housing and council tax in 2014/15. (h/t Dave)

Illegal subletting and not using a house as a main home were among the ways residents were found to be flouting tenancy rules.

The overpayments totalled £856,828, the council's counter fraud unit discovered.

Action was taken against 83 people caught fiddling claims forms - this ranged from formal warnings and fines to prosecution at court.

During the 12 months, 51 people were prosecuted, 13 were fined and 18 formal warnings were issued.

In addition, 21 were caught flouting the rules of the council tax reduction scheme leading to overpayments totalling £17,380.

Earlier this month convicted benefits cheat Rashpal Kaur , who made bogus claims totalling tens of thousands of pounds, was jailed for failing to pay back the money. The 47-year-old, of Europa Avenue, West Bromwich raked in excess housing and council tax benefit over six years after lying about her circumstances to Sandwell Council.

During the past 12 months more than 100 homes have been seized by Sandwell Council after tenants were caught misusing properties.

The council launched more than 200 tenancy fraud investigations during the past year and recovered a total of 115 properties.

The council said two people had been convicted of ‘right to buy’ fraud during the past year.

Figures released earlier this year showed the council is owed more than £2 million in unpaid council tax from last year. A total of 19,628 council tax accounts were not paid in full by the end of the 2014/15 financial year, the figures show.

This has left the council needing to chase £2.2m. But bosses say despite the outstanding payments, they have a high council tax collection rate in the borough.

In September, it emerged that more than 10,000 housing tenants in Sandwell owed money to the council for outstanding rent payments equalling more than £3m.

At the source site, one commenter adds:

  • As a council benefits officer, if a claimant is able to prove their entitlement to benefit they are required by law to pay it. The fraud is almost always the total fault of the claimant and to start investigating the council has to have reason. There are probably getting on for 500 claimants to each benefit officer so the odds are stacked in favour of the benefit thieves.

21 May 2015

Hyde Group secures its first Unlawful Profit Order

Hyde Group is warning any tempted residents not to illegally sublet their homes after the housing association secured its first Unlawful Profit Order.

The unnamed tenant was ordered to pay a total of £17,662, including Hyde's £5k legal costs, and told to vacate the property within 14 days at a county court hearing in Croydon. The tenant had sub-let the whole property and consequently lost assured tenancy status.

The UPO was introduced through the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013.

Hyde housing director Carol Carter said:
A very small minority of tenants choose to flout the laws when it comes to sub-letting. While they may see this as a victimless crime they are taking up valuable accommodation that could and should be given to those who need it most. It’s for the integrity of The Hyde Group and not least in fairness to our thousands of law abiding tenants, and those waiting for a suitable property to become available, that this case was brought to court.
The Hyde Group worked in collaboration with the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s internal audit & tenancy fraud enforcement team.

Source

14 May 2015

Poll: 66% believe housing benefit fraud is a big problem

As a new Conservative government takes charge, tenancy fraud is highlighted as a big problem across the UK with the illegal claiming of housing benefit seen as the biggest problem of all, according to latest findings from Callcredit Information Group.

It has been estimated that tenancy fraud currently costs councils across the UK £1.8 billion each year. The independent research undertaken by YouGov looked into the types of housing fraud that were seen as the biggest problem by the public, and if the money could be recovered what councils should spend it on. Interestingly respondents across all age groups and regions prioritised affordable housing (50 per cent) as the area to spend recovered money, indicating a united view that more needs to be done to help solve the housing crisis.

The research also revealed a widespread recognition there is a tenancy fraud issue with national unity across the findings and attitudes hardening amongst the older generation.

When asked how big a problem, if at all, do you think tenancy fraud is? The respondents indicated the following was a big problem:

Illegal claiming of housing benefit – 66 per cent
Illegal sub-letting of social housing – 55 per cent
Non-occupancy of social housing by tenants, leaving property empty – 46 per cent
False claiming of the single person discount in social housing – 53 per cent

When asked if tenancy fraud costs could be recovered, what do you think councils should spend it on? The top three findings were:

Affordable housing – 50 per cent
Local healthcare services – 40 per cent
Roads and pavements - 28 per cent

Andrew Davis, Director of public sector, Callcredit Information Group said:
There has been considerable government effort over the past five years to tackle the high levels of fraud and error in the public sector. It is essential that the new Conservative government maintains efforts to reduce fraud and minimise error to help eradicate the deficit. Housing benefit fraud and error cost the taxpayer around £1.2 billion per year and single person discount fraud is currently responsible for an estimated £90 million fraud loss per year. These figures combined with our results highlight that local authorities need to do to more to reduce tenancy fraud and show the public they are taking action to improve fraud and error detection. The savings could make a significant contribution to the public purse and could be used to build more affordable homes, which are urgently needed.

26 Nov 2014

Owner of 3 houses must repay £143,500 for 22-year benefit fraud

A woman who owns three houses has been ordered to pay back £143,500 after fraudulently claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, housing benefit and council tax benefit over a span of 22 years.

Josephine Aidoo, 52, from Stamford Hill, used a fake birth certificate to secure a tenancy while she was believed to own a property in Tottenham.

Aidoo was ordered to repay £143,500 at Snaresbrook Crown Court after being convicted of 11 fraud offences which took place between May 1988 and October 2010.

Aidoo was arrested in March 2012 on suspicion of benefit fraud after police secured a search warrant on her home.

The Met’s criminal finance team and Hackney Council investigated for 18 months before pressing charges for 21 offences in 2013.

These included benefit fraud, fraud by false representation relating to the three houses she owned and possession of false identification with intent.

She was sentenced on January 9 this year at Snaresbrook Crown Court to 39 months imprisonment.

Officers then applied for a confiscation hearing for her assets, which included three properties and cash.

During the confiscation proceedings the criminal benefit of £143,500 was granted. Compensation orders of over £95,000 were also granted to Hackney Council and the Department of Work and Pensions, with the remainder going to the Home Office.

Aidoo must pay back the money within six months. Failure to do so will add a further two-and-a-half years to her prison sentence, and she will still be liable to the terms of the confiscation order.

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