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Finance and money, Fraud and prosecutions, Housing

Lambeth crackdown on housing fraud reaps rewards

Dozens of homes are being recovered from fraudsters and freed up for Lambeth families that need them, thanks to a joint campaign by Lambeth Council and Lambeth Living.

The ‘Cut the Queue’ campaign has seen officers knocking on the doors of hundreds of suspected tenancy fraudsters and starting legal proceedings to boot them out.

The action has already freed up 32 desperately needed homes for people who genuinely need them, with recovery action currently underway in 40 more cases.

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

Councillor Pete Robbins, Lambeth Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services, said: “I am determined to crack down on tenancy fraud. It is not a victimless crime – it deprives people who are in genuine need of housing the chance of a permanent and safe roof over their head. Given the shortage of affordable homes in London it is completely unacceptable that tenants sub-let council homes, often at exorbitant levels way above the social rent. We will not tolerate this behaviour and we will continue to crack down hard on anyone involved in this illegal activity.”

Neil Litherland, Lambeth Living Chief Executive, said: “Since the Cut the Queue campaign began we have recovered dozens of homes for families who genuinely need them, with hundreds of other cases currently under investigation. By working together, Lambeth Living and the council are rooting out this type of fraud and freeing up permanent homes for people on the housing waiting list.”

‘Cut the Queue’ has seen housing officers cross check the details of suspected illegal sub-letters and tenancy fraudsters against a national database. Following these inquiries more than 350 visits have been made to Lambeth properties for follow up investigation. The council and Lambeth Living have set a target of recovering at least 100 properties by April 2013.

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. If anyone knows of a property they suspect is being illegally sub-let, they should call the Fraud Hotline on 020 7926 1111. All calls will be handled in the strictest confidence.

Editors notes: The Audit Commission’s publication, ‘Protecting the Public Purse 2011’, suggested that housing fraud cost the public purse £900m in 2010/11. The Audit Commission believes that approximately 2.5% of social housing tenancies in London are subject to tenancy fraud.

To read the full report at the council’s Corporate Committee visit:

http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/moderngov/documents/s49300/06%20Cut%20the%20Queue%20and%20Tenancy%20Fraud.pdf

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