Opinion: Let’s fight back against tenancy fraud
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Legal
FraudImage: Fraud via Shutterstock
Housing tenancy fraud costs tax payers millions each year. Here Deborah Baker, fraud investigator at Viridian Housing, shares her views and the initiatives that the housing association has implemented to tackle tenancy fraud.
In 2012 the National Fraud Authority (NFA) estimated that housing tenancy fraud costs the public at least £900 million each year and it costs £18,000 a year to place a family in temporary accommodation because of the lack of social housing available. Some tenants already in social housing can get tempted to rent their home out to sub tenants to make a profit. This ultimately lengthens the waiting time for genuine applicants who are waiting on the social housing list, because this property is being occupied by someone without a need for social housing.
Subletting is when you have moved out of your scoial home and you are letting someone else live there, even if this person is a relative. Viridian takes tenancy fraud extremely seriously and only offers homes to those in need. Viridian will take action if our tenants sublet their home to earn an extra bit of cash or do not use their property, as someone else on the waiting list could be living there.
Tenancy fraud is not always easy to identify and that’s why Viridian employs two dedicated fraud specialists, who work closely with other organisations to investigate any tenancy fraud allegations. So far this year, with the help of our residents, we have recovered 37 properties due to tenancy fraud, which means 37 extra homes have become available to be re-let to people from the social housing waiting list.
We all have a part to play in tackling tenancy fraud. In April 2012, Viridian formed the Tenancy Fraud Forum in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) to enable other housing organisations to share ideas and implement best practice in an effort to combat social housing fraud issues. Viridian is also trying to work with tenants to help identify tenancy fraud and we are offering up to £250 if the information provided helps uncover tenancy fraud and results in the recovery of our property.
To safe-guard social housing from tenancy fraud the government is making subletting a criminal offence, meaning tenants that are found guilty could risk losing their homes as well as being prosecuted and getting a criminal record. This new law should not only act as a deterrent but allow the court to fine or imprison tenants who are found guilty and also allow the court to order profits gained from any subletting to be repaid to the landlord.
Viridian is running a subletting amnesty from 1 October to 15 November 2013 so that anyone currently subletting or not using their home can give up their tenancy to avoid court action by handing in their keys.
If you suspect someone is subletting you can email Viridian in complete confidence at email@example.com.