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Benefits, Fraud and prosecutions, Housing

Major crackdown begins to drive out housing cheats

Lambeth Council is launching a major crackdown against illegal sub-letting across the borough.

Fraud investigators will knock on the doors of hundreds of properties over the coming months to uncover tenants who illegally sub-let, and will take legal proceedings to boot them out.

The action, in partnership with Lambeth Living, will free up desperately needed homes for people who genuinely need them.

Illegal subletting is where the registered tenant does not live at the property but rents it out for profit on the private market, and deprives people on the council’s housing waiting list and in genuine need of a permanent home.

Around 60 properties were recovered last year from illegal sub-letters in Lambeth, but the practice is believed to be more widespread, so the council and Lambeth Living aim to double that amount this year by carrying out more visits and investigations, and better intelligence sharing.

The initiative follows a successful pilot undertaken during September and October on the Springfield and Briant estates, in the north of the borough where around four per cent of the properties were found to be illegally sub-let.

Checks at the two estates have to date uncovered fifteen suspected fraudulent tenancies. In three of these cases the properties have been handed back to the council – voluntarily. Five of the outstanding cases have already been put in the hands of the council’s lawyers to take legal action, and investigations continue on the remaining seven cases.

Following the successful pilot in the north of the borough, the project will now be rolled out across the centre and south of Lambeth.

The penalty for anyone subletting their home is severe and final. Tenants who sublet their property will lose their tenancy and the illegal tenants will be evicted. Councillor Lib Peck, Lambeth Council cabinet member for housing said:

“This is not a victimless crime – housing tenancy fraud costs Lambeth dearly. It deprives people on the housing waiting list and who are in genuine need of housing, of a permanent and safe roof over their head. It means that people are leap-frogging the waiting list and tying up badly needed homes, and we will put a stop to that”.

Deputy cabinet member for housing, Cllr. Chiristopher Wellbelove commented: “I know from my

casework on local estates that illegal subletting is a problem that genuine tenants want tackled, as well as families who are weary of being on the waiting list for a permanent home. Council housing is a precious resource – and these homes should be available for people who really need them”.

If anyone knows of a property they suspect is being illegally sub-let, they should call the Fraud Hotline on 0207 926 1111. All calls will be handled in the strictest confidence.

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