This fraud awareness week Portsmouth City Council is shining a spotlight on the work the fraud team carries out to ensure council houses are given to people that need them, resulting in fewer people needing to use temporary accommodation and saving thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
Fraud awareness week is organised by the Tenancy Fraud Forum and runs from 12 – 18 of November.
Tenancy fraud is when someone sublets a property, misleads the council to receive a property, sells their keys to someone else, or doesn’t live in the property, perhaps because they have moved in with a partner but don’t want to lose their home.
According to the Tenancy Fraud Forum, in England, more than 100,000 families are in temporary accommodation due to tenancy fraud, and every night 310,000 children have to share a bed because of overcrowding. More than 148,000 homes are subject to tenancy fraud, and every home that is linked to tenancy fraud costs the taxpayer £42k.
Locally, since April, the council’s fraud team has recovered ten properties that were being fraudulently used. That’s more than one property a month.
Tenancy fraud is not a victimless crime and is an offence under the Prevention of Social Housing fraud Act 2013, which could result in prosecution. The council will recover any benefits that should not have been paid and take steps to recover the property, so that it can be allocated to the next person on the Portsmouth Housing Register. The council can also take steps under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to recover any money which has been fraudulently obtained by someone who has sub-let their council property.
Tell-tale signs of tenancy fraud:
- New occupants with no explanation
- No sign of your neighbours for a long time
- Tenant’s kids have taken over a property
- Flat doesn’t seem like the main home for occupants
Cllr Darren Sanders, cabinet member for Housing and Tackling Homelessness, said “Tenancy fraud is an unacceptable drain on our already stretched housing budget and we take it very seriously. Some people may not realise they are committing fraud, for instance if they work away and are subletting, or have passed their home down to their children without them joining the housing register. If you think a house near you is empty or rented out illegally, let us know; we’ll investigate every report we receive.”
If you think a property near you is being used fraudulently you can report it here: Reporting fraud to us – Portsmouth City Council.