Social Housing Fraud – Cllr Davey writes to Grant Shapps MP

Below is the contents of a letter Cllr Davey has today sent to Grant Shapps MP on the issue of Social Housing fraud.

Dear Mr Shapps MP,

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 whilst they 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, and financial penalties for fraudulently obtaining a social tenancy and to recover any profits made through illegal sub-letting a council or housing association home.
Currently, only obtaining a tenancy through making a false statement and exercising right to buy by providing misleading information can be dealt with in the criminal courts but in order to combat social housing fraud, it is essential to strengthen existing legislation so that all instances of such fraud attract custodial sentences and / or fines. Measures to allow for profits to be confiscated and for costs incurred by local authorities to be recovered would also be welcome. This would provide not only a punitive response to social housing fraud but would also act as a deterrent.

Cllr Tom Davey
Cabinet Member for Housing

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