Tenants could face jail for subletting social housing
By Nick Mann | 11 January 2012
Tenants who abuse the social housing system by unlawfully
subletting their property could face up to two years in prison under plans
published for consultation today by the housing minister.
Grant Shapps said making social housing fraud a criminal
offence would help deter tenants from cheating the system. Other proposals
would make it easier to detect and punish fraudsters and would encourage social
housing landlords to tackle the issue, freeing homes that could then be
allocated to those in greatest need, he added.
The consultation on unlawful subletting of social housing
follows a pledge by the government in November, when it published the Housing Strategy.
Ministers believe between 50,000 and 160,000 social homes
in England are currently unlawfully occupied and the National Fraud Authority
estimates tenancy fraud costs £900m a year.
However, subletting and most other types of tenancy fraud
are not criminal offences. According to the Department for Communities and
Local Government, those caught breaking the rules are generally just required
to give back the keys for properties they don’t live in.
Under the plans announced today, social housing tenancy abuse
could result in a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a £50,000 fine if
a case goes to Crown Court.
The seized proceeds of tenancy fraud would also be
reimbursed to the social landlord involved rather than retained by central
government as is currently the case.
Councils would be given the power to bring prosecutions
for tenancy fraud and banks and utility companies would be obliged to provide them
Shapps said the plans would ensure social housing
‘swindlers’ pay the price for their abuses at a time when more than 1.8 million
households are on social housing waiting lists.
‘The proposals I've announced today would not only deliver
justice to these fraudsters, but will also act as a deterrent to those who
think they can earn a fast buck from this precious resource,’ he said.
‘I want everyone to know that our country's social homes
are going to those in genuine need, not providing a “nice little earner” to
someone who could afford to live elsewhere.’
is open until April 4.