Tenancy Fraud Awareness Week 2018
Housing frauds are criminal offences and cost our communities nearly £1 billon a year. Veritau – the team who investigate fraud on behalf of City of York Council, Richmondshire District Council, Selby District Council, Broadacres Housing Association, Home Group and Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust – along with other social landlords across North Yorkshire and Humsberside are taking part in Tenancy Fraud Awareness Week which runs 19th to 23rd February 2018. The initiative, promoted by the Tenancy Fraud Forum Yorkshire and Humberside, aims to make people aware of different types of housing fraud and how to report any concerns they have.
Working alongside the council’s fraud investigation service, Veritau, the council are cracking down on properties being misused and those making fraudulent applications to be housed or purchase council properties.
Types of Housing Fraud
Subletting – If a tenant lets out their council or housing association home to someone else without the council’s consent, or if the tenant stops living in the property and lets other reside there they are subletting. Tenants may be charging their subtenants more in rent the council charges, thereby making profit from their crime.
Abandonment – If a tenant stops living in their council or housing association home and it remains empty, they are in breach of their tenancy. This behaviour deprives those waiting for affordable housing. If the tenant continues to receiving housing benefit or council tax discounts this is a further criminal offence.
False application – When someone provides false information or withholds information they should have told the council or housing association about when applying for a home they are committing a crime.
False Right to Buy – Tenants must meet certain criteria to be able to buy their council home at a discount. This includes living in the property and that they are the ones making the purchase (i.e. not a family member or friend).
False succession/assignment claim – To take on a tenancy from a tenant who is moving out or has passed away, the new tenant must have lived at the property for at least the last 12 months. Some fraudsters lie about where they were living to try and bypass the housing application process and get a council home.
Contrived exchanges – Some tenants may offer to exchange properties with other council or housing association tenants in exchange for one off payments. This can be criminal and profiting from social housing is not acceptable.
Fraudsters can be prosecuted leading to fines or custodial sentences and a criminal record. Those found to be misusing properties (such as through subletting or abandonment) can have their properties removed from them at court and people making false applications can also be banned from the housing register. Investigators have powers to obtain information to determine if fraud is taking place and housing providers can seek legal orders to recover profits made by those who sublet.