New housing minister pledges to fight housing cheats
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Housing, Legal, Regulation
FraudImage: Fraud via Shutterstock
The new housing minister Kris Hopkins has pledged to hit fraudsters who rent out their social homes for profit with the "full force of the law".
With the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act coming into force this week, anyone found guilty of committing tenancy fraud will face a fine and a custodial sentence of up to two years.
Offenders previously faced little more than having to hand back the keys to a property they weren’t living in.
The Audit Commission has estimated that around 100,000 social homes in England could be unlawfully occupied, while other estimates hold that subletting fraudsters could cost the taxpayer as much as £1.8 billion a year, while making thousands of pounds in profits.
The government has come up with £19 million in funding for councils across the country to combat the crime.
Kris Hopkins said: “For years, tenancy cheats have been able to carry on with their fraudulent activity, denying social homes to people in real need while facing little more than a slap on the wrist if they got caught.
“Today’s new powers will ensure social tenants found subletting their home will face the real threat of prison time and a fine, while social landlords will have the ability to recover the profits they make.”
The new powers have come into force after the government backed a private member’s bill by Conservative MP for Watford Richard Harrington. He said: “I am delighted that this Bill and the new measures will come into force. This will make a real difference to the many hardworking people and families waiting for a home, and no longer will those individuals who exploit the system to make money off the taxpayer be able to get away with it.
“Social tenancy fraud has been a significant problems in major cities and the South East, including my own constituency of Watford. I have been shocked and appalled that people have been able to get away with defrauding the tax payer for so long and I am pleased that my Bill will go a long way in preventing this and properly dealing with those who continue to break the law.”