Preventing tenancy fraud and subletting in social housing07/06/21
Tenancy fraud is a common issue for registered providers and local authorities, as it can be difficult to detect without a specialist investigation. Since the start of the pandemic, cases have been on the rise nationally, particularly in terms of unlawful subletting. At the same time, investigations have been halted due to social distancing measures preventing visits to properties on a regular basis, as well as a delay in legal action.
Below, we summarise a recent case and how our legal experts can support housing providers to prevent fraudulent activities.
Riverside Housing’s Counter Fraud Specialist Raj Vine was informed by her colleague that a two bedroom flat they owned and managed in Camberwell, South London was assumed to be abandoned as no contact had been had with the tenant for a very long time and the annual gas safety check was outstanding.
Upon further investigation, Raj found two women, and their children, living in the property with locks on the bedroom doors and a bed in the lounge. The occupants of the property said they were relatives of the tenant and were merely visiting. Neighbours said the tenant hadn’t been there for around 12 years though she collected the rent in cash every week. She was also traced to another property where she lived with her husband.
As a result of Riverside’s investigations, notices were served and Capsticks were instructed to issue a claim for possession of the property, rent arrears, legal costs and for an Unlawful Profits Order. The matter was handled by our Associate, Katrina Robinson MBE who is also Chair of the Tenancy Fraud Forum.
The matter was defended throughout, with the tenant claiming she had not sublet, that the occupants were visiting relatives and that Riverside were lying. The Defendant was of the view that the fact that one of her ‘visiting relatives’ had been on the electoral roll at the property for 12 years to be a mistake by the local authority.
Andy Lane from Cornerstone Barristers represented Riverside at the trial on 3rd June 2021. The Judge was less than convinced by the Defendant’s arguments and found that subletting had taken place and it was not something which the Court was going to condone. The Judge also said it was a very serious case of the abuse of social housing resources for personal gain.
The Judge made an outright order for possession together with an order for the rent arrears and legal costs and an Unlawful Profit Order in the sum of £145,177.89 pursuant to section 5 of the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013.
How Capsticks can help
Our team advises on all aspects of housing management—from the most serious anti-social behaviour (ASB) cases to complex succession disputes—including possession claims, ASB, county court injunctions, removing squatters, sub-letting, fraud, disrepair, abandonment, hoarding, safeguarding, accelerated proceedings and site clearance. If you have any queries around what's discussed in this article, and the impact on your housing organisation, please speak to Katrina Robinson MBE to find out more about how Capsticks can help.
For in-depth guidance on the issues raised in this article, we are hosting a free tenancy fraud webinar on 1 July at 2pm, presented by Katrina Robinson, Helen Gascoigne and Andy Lane. Reserve your place here.