Forum comes together to battle tenancy fraud
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Legal
Fraud fighting group
A new forum has been established to fight social housing tenancy fraud in Somerset.
With over 16,000 people on the housing register in the region, those falsely claiming a property or renting it unlawfully are making it even harder for families in need to find a home.
Current estimates put the number of unlawfully sublet social housing homes in the UK at around 98,000, and the Audit Commission reports that social housing fraud is the single largest category of fraud loss in local government, in terms of value.
The Somerset Tenancy Fraud Forum (STFF), chaired by Yarlington Housing Group, includes representatives from South Somerset District Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, West Somerset Council, Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council and housing associations across the county including Knightstone, Hastoe, Homes in Sedgemore, and Raglan.
The group will meet on a quarterly basis to discuss case studies, best practice, understand new legislation and initiatives, and support one another. They have already benefitted from a training session held by barrister Jo Morrissey from Southampton.
It is hoped the public will now get behind a campaign launched by the forum, and understand the importance in working together to combat fraud, which costs every adult in the UK £1,460 a year.
Chloe Deacon, lettings manager at Yarlington and STFF chair, said: "As a forum, we are committed to tackling fraud. New legislation introduced by government means that tenancy fraud is a criminal offence and penalties include imprisonment and substantial fines.
"People abusing the scarce resources and depriving those in real housing need will be prosecuted. We all have a role to play in reporting fraud, and the new website enables people to understand, share and report vital information in one place."
Tim Carroll, deputy leader of South Somerset District Council, who is hosting the phone line and website on behalf of the group, added, ‘This is a determined initiative on behalf of the Districts and Housing Associations to identify and root out fraud in the housing sector and associated benefits."