Sunday, July 15, 2012
New Law to criminalise cheats that cost country
With just two weeks to go before the start of the Olympics,
Housing Minister Grant Shapps has called on social housing
landlords in East London to be extra vigilant and take tough action
against tenancy cheats trying to make a fast-buck out of
sub-letting their homes.
His call came ahead of the Second Reading of a Government-backed
Private Members Bill - introduced by Richard Harrington MP - aimed
at tackling the multi-billion pound tenancy fraud scam. Measures
include making the sub-letting of social homes a criminal offence
for the first time, and forcing profits made from unlawful
sub-letting to be paid back to the landlord. A summary of responses
to the consultation and the proposed next steps are also published
In the meantime, the Minister is calling on all social housing
landlords to use their existing powers to their full extent
Grant Shapps said:
"Sub-letting a much needed social home is not a clever piece of
private enterprise in action. Instead it's a multi-billion pound
scam that denies families in need a decent home. That's why I'm
giving my full backing to this Bill.
"Anyone in London hoping to profiteer by sub-letting their
council house in the coming weeks needs to know that they could
lose their tenancies by unlawfully renting out their home.
"And if these fraudsters think this wheeze is a gateway to
earning thousands in the future, then they also need to know that
it may soon become a criminal offence.
"The Olympics are a great opportunity for London to welcome the
world. They are not an excuse for wide boys to rip off the
taxpayer. We won't allow cheating outside the Olympic Park anymore
than it will be allowed within it."
Conservative MP Richard Harrington said:
"I join Grant's call for landlords to be extra vigilant over
this Olympics summer. By introducing my Private Members Bill I want
to see stronger punishments for those who commit tenancy fraud and
introduce effective deterrents. This new legislation will go a long
way in tackling this problem in the long term"
Estimates suggest that between 50,000 and 160,000 social homes
are unlawfully occupied across the country. Even at the lowest
estimate to replace the social homes that are being unlawfully
occupied - to house those who have effectively been displaced by
tenancy fraudsters - would cost several billion pounds.
Mr Shapps said social housing landlords and councils could learn
from others taking on tenancy cheats including:
- Hounslow - used Government funding to enable
Homes for Hounslow to hire a tenancy fraud officer and as a result
recovered 41 properties between July 2010 and June 2011. Properties
recovered included: Clayponds Garden, Ealing - sublet for more than
20 years; and Snowy Fielder Way - the tenant had relocated to USA
and the property had been sublet for more than 10 years.
- Wolverhampton Homes - used Government funding
to employ a dedicated fraud officer, produce publicity material to
raise awareness and recruit two tenancy officers to work on high
rise blocks conducting tenancy audits and assisting with fraud
reports. One recent case involved a tenant who the council believed
had not lived at the property for over 20 years, only returning
once a week for about 40 minutes. The tenant refused to terminate
the tenancy but at the final court hearing the judge ruled in the
council's favour and awarded outright possession plus costs.
- Enfield - hired two specialist officers to
tackle tenancy fraud with Government funding, resulting in the
recovery of around 90 properties to date.