A woman from West Oxfordshire has been prosecuted by the criminal courts for falsely obtaining a social housing property. The woman was convicted of false representation on 05 January 2016 after she had failed to disclose in her application to West Oxfordshire District Council that she already owned another property.
The woman was subsequently successful with her application and was given a property with the council which would have otherwise been allocated to another individual/family in need of housing.
A sentence of four months’ imprisonment suspended for two years was awarded, as well as a costs Order of £1,400 to the council. The woman has now been evicted from the property and it has been allocated to another family.
Across the UK it is estimated that around 50,000 social housing properties are occupied by someone who shouldn't live there or who has obtained their property by deception. If you are a social housing tenant it is important to remember that if you are caught committing housing fraud you are not only likely to lose your tenancy, but are more than likely going to lose your right to social housing in the future, on top of any criminal conviction. Often tenants don’t realise that they are doing anything wrong and they don’t fully appreciate their obligations to the housing provider. This can be understandable when application forms often run into many pages and are not always clear.
It isn’t always clear exactly what type of things constitute tenancy fraud. As a general guide to tenants other types of tenancy fraud include:
- Unauthorised subletting - the tenant claims to live at the property, but instead lets all or part of it out without their landlord’s consent.
- Non-occupation - the tenant claims the property as their principal home, but instead uses it as a second property.
- Key Selling - the tenant leaves the property and passes on the keys to someone else in return for a favour, or in place of a payment, or in exchange for payment.
- Wrongly claimed succession - illegally succeeding the tenancy following the death of the lawful tenant.
- Unauthorised exchange and assignment - the tenant gives their tenancy to a partner or family member who lived in the property with them, without obtaining permission from their landlord.
All of the above are criminal offences and a tenant could be punished by way of fine and/or prison sentence. It is important that tenants are open and honest with the housing provider during the application process and once they sign any type of tenancy with that provider. It can also be beneficial to seek the advice of a solicitor who can explain exactly what conduct is expected from a tenant so as to avoid any difficulties or potential court proceedings further on down the line.