Tenancy fraud is a crime and reduces the availability of homes for those in real needPublished: 09/11/2023
The negative impacts that tenancy fraud has on the public purse and on homelessness in Kent and Medway is being highlighted as part of Fraud Awareness Week from 12-18 November.
Adam Simmonds, Chair of the Kent Tenancy Fraud Forum, which is part of Kent Housing Group (KHG), said: “Tenancy fraud occurs when a local authority or housing association home is occupied by someone who is either not legally entitled to be there, has obtained use of the property fraudulently or leaves the property empty while living elsewhere.
“Tenancy fraud is a criminal offence and penalties include a prison term of up to two years and fines of up to £50,000.”
“The courts have the power to make the tenant pay back any profits made from the fraud. This crime restricts the amount of housing available to those genuinely in need and is a drain on the public purse, since those who are left without a home often have to be housed in costly emergency accommodation. It’s estimated that tenancy fraud costs the public purse more than £900m a year in the UK,” said Adam.
The Kent Tenancy Fraud Forum is working with the national Tenancy Fraud Forum who’ve provided posters that organisations in the social housing sector can add their logo to and use as part of the awareness campaign.
KHG Chair Brian Horton said: “People who abuse a social housing tenancy by committing fraud are thankfully in a minority but their criminal behaviour has far-reaching negative impacts on the availability of homes for those in need.
“These tenancy fraudsters must be identified and action taken, we owe this to the families we have a duty to house and to the vast majority of social housing tenants in Kent and Medway who abide by the terms of their tenancies with local councils and housing associations.”
Case study 1 – relates to sub-letting and a fraudulent Right To Buy attempt in Thanet
- Information was received by Thanet District Council’s tax department indicating that there were new tenants in a council flat despite the fact the current tenant was still on the books.
- A visit was made to the flat and a couple unrelated to the tenant were resident there.
- The flat had been rented through a high street letting agent who were unaware it was a council-owned property.
- Credit check and enquiries with neighbours suggested the tenant had gone abroad.
- Evidence from the letting agent shows the person who approached them to let the property was not the tenant. It was a property management company who claimed that they were funding the Right to Buy application submitted by the tenant.
- The tenant had submitted a Right to Buy application and approached the property management company to fund this on the understanding that ownership would eventually transfer to them.
- The tenant had defrauded the property management company and fled abroad with the money. The Right to Buy deal was never completed.
Case study 2 – relates to sub-letting in Dover
- Reports from a neighbour concerning anti-social behaviour by the new occupiers of a council flat despite the current tenant still being on the books.
- Social media searches showed the tenant to be in a new relationship with someone out of the area. The address of the partner was located and evidence found linking the tenant to that address.
- The tenant had secured a new job in the same town as the new partner and had appeared to move there and sub-let her council property.
- A visit was made to the council property and the sub-tenants were spoken to which confirmed the situation.
On both occasions possession of the council properties was regained and the properties were subsequently re-let to people on the waiting list.
For more information about Fraud Awareness Week visit the Fraud Week website.
More information about the national Tenancy Fraud Forum visit Tenancy Fraud Forum online.
More information is available on the Kent Housing Group website.