Headlines: December 1st, 2009

A national crackdown on tenancy cheats has been launched with the aim of recovering up to 10,000 council and housing association homes which have been sublet fraudulently. As a first step the Housing Minister, John Healey, has given councils and housing associations around 8,000 leads to potential tenancy cheats.

The names have been found through data sweeps by the Audit Commission, which matched tenancy records against those held by councils, housing associations and other public bodies. It has been estimated that tenancy cheats can earn thousands of pounds a year by unlawfully subletting their properties at higher rental rates. If they are caught they can lose their tenancies and their right to social housing in future. Many of the people living in sub-let homes do not know about the fraud but it is reckoned that 80 per cent of them do not qualify for a council or housing association home.

Figures from the Audit Commission suggest the number of social homes unlawfully acquired or sublet could range from one in 100 in some areas to as many as one in 20 in some inner-city areas. It is estimated that 50,000 homes are affected. Almost 150 councils have signed up to the Government crackdown. Councils working alongside housing associations in their areas will get a share of 4 million pounds to create their own anti-fraud initiatives.

John Healey said: “We can’t allow cheats to hang onto the tenancies of council houses they don’t need and don’t live in. I want people to feel the system for housing families who need homes is fairer,” and he added: “Public tip-offs are vital in tackling this problem. So I am also offering 500 pounds to anyone whose information leads to us recovering one of the first 1,000 homes.”