Councils given £19m to combat social housing fraud

16 Dec 10
The government today pledged £19m to help councils in England tackle social housing fraud.

By Lucy Phillips

16 December 2010

The government today pledged £19m to help councils in England tackle social housing fraud.

The cash will be shared between 51 councils with the best track records in preventing tenancy cheats who unlawfully sublet council and housing association properties. It can be used for employing dedicated housing officers to investigate allegations and conducting tenancy audits to ensure lawful tenants are living in a property, among other things.

At least 50,000 social homes in England are thought to be illegally occupied, with as many as one in 20 properties subject to fraud in some parts of the country. Providing the equivalent number of new social homes for legitimate housing claimants would cost more than £5m, the government said.    

London’s 32 boroughs, where the problem is particularly acute, will each be given £100,000, while Birmingham, Bristol, Sheffield and Oxford are among those to be given £80,000–£85,000.

Housing minister Grant Shapps said: ‘Tenancy fraud costs this country billions of pounds, but it’s not just money that’s wasted. The housing waiting list has doubled and tenancy fraud means that tens of thousands of people who could otherwise be housed are losing out because of cheats.’         

Meanwhile, a dedicated national action team will be set up, based at the Chartered Institute of Housing, to support all local authorities in their efforts to tackle the problem.

To mark the move, the CIH and National Fraud Authority published a guide for councils on preventing social housing fraud.    

Dr Bernard Herdan, chief executive of the National Fraud Authority, said: ‘In a time where demand is outstripping supply, it is imperative we tackle the fraudsters denying low-income families access to proper accommodation and profiting from unlawful subletting.’

The new government funding was welcomed by the Audit Commission, which first identified the scale of the fraud. Chairn Michael O’Higgins said the watchdog’s National Fraud Initiative data-matching exercise had helped councils identify and recover properties worth £15m over the past year.

Did you enjoy this article?