Illegal sub-letter ordered to pay back profits
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Housing, Legal
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A council tenant who illegally sub-let her property for more than a year has been ordered to pay back the profit she made.
Newham Council’s tenancy audit team found that Temitayo Adesokan was sub-letting a two-bedroom property in East Ham to a family of four, while she lived in Barking and Dagenham.
When her tenants stopped paying rent after discovering she did not own the property she started possession proceedings against them.
The council allowed her to continue with these proceedings to ensure swift recovery of the property at minimal cost to the local authority.
The 40-year-old was ordered by Bow County Court to pay back the £6,900 profit she made from illegally sub-letting the property, plus £700 court costs.
The Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013, which became law last October, means tenancy fraud is now a criminal offence and punishable by a custodial sentence of up to two years and a £5,000 fine. It also gives the council power to recover profits made from fraud.
Newham launched a key amnesty which ran from October 2013 until January 2014 offering tenants who had either illegally sub-let their property or left it vacant, to hand their property back rather than face prosecution.
As a result of the amnesty, 26 council homes have been recovered to date.
Keys have been returned for a further three but possession still needs to be gained.
According to figures from the Audit Commission, the return of the homes has saved the council more than £1.95 million.
The council says that it carries out rigorous audit checks on all of its properties, and photographs of more than 11,000 tenants have been added to a tenancy database.
Key fob audits, when all fobs for a block are deactivated, regularly take place and fobs will only be reactivated for the legal resident of the property.
Cllr Andrew Baikie, executive member for housing and customer service, said: “We will not tolerate deceitful tenants illegally sub-letting council properties. It is unfair to the thousands of people on our housing list waiting for a home. We will take tough action against those found committing tenancy fraud. Not only will they lose their council property, we will also seek to recover any profits made from this illegal activity.
“This is the first time we have used this new legislation and this is an excellent result. It is important that we continue to use these powers as tenancy fraud costs us thousands of pounds and robs residents who may have been on the housing register for some years of a home.”