£400,000 in housing benefit payments go missing
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Finance, Local Government
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Up to £400,000 in housing benefit has disappeared after being paid to a property agent, a Channel 4 News investigation has revealed.
The money is believed to have vanished after being paid to London Housing Solutions, a firm that specialised in renting homes to welfare claimants and which is currently going into administration.
When questioned by C4 News, the firm's current and former directors acknowledged that the money has gone missing but refused to accept any responsibility.
According to C4 News, London Housing Solutions owes money to at least 100 landlords, while tenants it spoke to said they feared being evicted as a consequence of the money vanishing.
Another firm, Local Housing Solutions, a subsidiary of London Housing Solutions, also expressed bafflement as to the whereabouts of the funds when pressed by journalists.
The firms' creator, businessman Keith MacGregor, failed to directly respond to C4 News’ request for a statement.
Last year, the two firms managed more than 700 properties between them around London and the South East, and brought in hundreds of thousands of pounds each month from several of the capital's councils.
The firms offered a connection between landlords and housing benefit tenants, providing a "guaranteed rent" to property owners for three and five-year periods in exchange for the management of their dwellings.
But C4 News' investigation found that at least £400,000 in housing benefit given to the companies has not been passed on to the property owners concerned.
Darren Saunders told C4 News that he contacted councils to get them to stop making payments when he took control of London Housing Solutions in November 2013.
He said: "It's a great big mess. I believe by me stepping in I've stopped it getting worse. I've taken over the company, very quickly seen how bad it is and said to all the councils, please do not pay me this money. Do not pay money into this account."