London Borough of Barnet

Cabinet Member for Housing calls for tougher penalties to tackle tenancy fraud

Published Wednesday 13 June 2012

Barnet Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Tom Davey, has written to government minister Grant Shapps MP to highlight the issue of tenancy fraud.

In his letter to the Minister for Housing and Local Government, Cllr Davey suggests local authorities would benefit from tougher powers being in place to tackle those securing social housing through fraudulent means or illegally profiting from subletting a council home they no longer need.

Cllr Davey said: “At a time of significant demand for housing it’s utterly wrong that someone should profit from illegally subletting a council home or cheat the system in order to secure one.

“Strengthening existing legislation, and powers to confiscate profits and recover costs incurred by local authorities, would serve as both a punitive response and a powerful deterrent.”

In his letter, Cllr Davey wrote:

In Barnet there are a limited number of council and housing association homes with which to provide homes for those who are in the highest housing need. In common with the rest of London, the borough has seen an increase in the number of people needing accommodation as the population grows.

We have already implemented some radical changes to our allocations policy to ensure that we target social housing on those most in need, whilst recognising the contribution that people who work or volunteer make to the community. We are also implementing a new tenancy strategy that will help ensure that more people will benefit from being in a subsidised council or housing association home when they most need it; with encouragement to release the property for someone else once their circumstances have improved.

Against this background, it is not acceptable that some people secure a social home through fraudulent means by deliberately making false claims about their circumstances, whilst others illegally let council homes they no longer need for themselves privately for a substantial profit at tax payers’ expense. It is indefensible that with the scarcity of social housing some people should abuse the system and profit in this way.

At Barnet we take social housing fraud very seriously, and have successfully recovered 20 properties over the last 12 months.  However, we believe that we could be more effective if there were tougher powers in place to punish the perpetrators, financial penalties for fraudulently obtaining a social tenancy and councils given the capability to recover any profits made through illegally sub-letting a council or housing association home.

Contact press officer: Nick Griffin