Key amnesty to return in the fight against tenancy fraud

9 July 2015 in Housing
Newham Council tenants illegally subletting their properties have been given the chance to hand back their keys and escape prosecution as part of a key amnesty.
The amnesty will start on 11 July and run throughout the summer. This is the second time Newham Council has run a key amnesty. A similar scheme in 2013 saw the council recover 26 properties.

Tenants are committing fraud if they have a tenancy with the council but live elsewhere and sublet the property to another person. Tenancy fraud also includes providing false information when applying for housing and illegally applying to succeed a tenancy of someone who has died when there is no right to succession.

These are criminal offences under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013. Council tenants who break this law could face a prison sentence of up to two years and a £50,000 fine.

During the previous amnesty, almost 50 people contacted the council, some to voluntarily hand back their keys, others to report illegal subletting. Tenants who admitted to subletting were given time to vacate the property.

Tenants who are illegally subletting their council house, have until 1 September 2015 to hand their keys in to the council and give their property back. If they do so, they will not face prosecution. After the amnesty ends, the council will prosecute any tenants found still committing tenancy fraud.

Councillor Andrew Baikie, mayoral advisor for housing said: “We are experiencing an acute housing shortage in Newham and our council housing stock is imperative to helping us tackle this. Illegal subletting is unfair to the thousands of people on our housing register, many of whom have been waiting for years for a council property.

“The majority of our tenants live in their properties legally but we are tackling those who commit fraud at the expense of the public purse. This work won’t stop when the key amnesty ends as we will continue our rigorous audit checks on all our properties. Anyone committing tenancy fraud should hand their keys back to the council immediately because if you are caught after the amnesty, you will face a hefty fine or even prison.”

Tenants wishing to end their tenancy, should call 020 3373 3261 for advice on how to do so.

Residents who are aware of anyone committing these offences, or have any information about someone not living at their council home, can call the council’s Tenancy Audit Team on 020 3373 3261 in confidence.