Crackdown on illegal sublets cashing in on councils' goodwill

September 15, 2011 9:52 AM

Illegal subletting of social housing in Britain is much more common than originally thought—three times higher in fact. According to a new study, the fraudulent practice is costing taxpayers upwards of £2 billion a year - money that could be saved, or spent helping those truly in need.

Tower BlockThe fact that tenants are taking such advantage of the system is particularly troubling considering the current long waiting lists for social housing in the UK. In the London Borough of Hillingdon, for example, 600 more people were added to the council housing register this year compared to last. That means, in just a single London borough, there are a total of 7,856 individuals waiting to be housed.

Experian Public Sector put out the study and claimed an upwards of 160,000 council homes were being illegally sublet - roughly 3 per cent of the total UK social housing. Apart from the fact it is against the rules, if you are in a position to sublet your council house and still have somewhere else to live, you probably don’t need it in the first place. These are homes that could be offered to someone else.

Not enough is being done to deter such blatant disregard for the concept of social housing and it is regrettable that the taxpayer is bearing the monetary brunt. Worse still, the abusers face merely a slap on the wrist and a boot out the door should they get caught - though not before earning an estimated £20,000 a year from illegally renting out their social housing. The tenancy cheats can also currently rest assured knowing that criminal sanctions cannot be brought against them.

Eviction is not enough; councils should be more rigorous in their checks and must improve the way they manage the system. The council must do a better job ensuring that benefactors actually live at the address they were given. According to an article published in The Telegraph last month, the government is entertaining the notion of upping the ante should offenders be caught. Under the new guidelines, council housing abusers could also face jail time in addition to eviction. Certainly a step in the right direction, but it still does not close the loophole allowing tenants to abuse the system in the first place.

Before the study was revealed this week, the government thought 50,000 homes were being illegally sublet in the UK, a high number, but nowhere near the 160,000 that is now being claimed. Temporary housing costs approximately £18,000 a year for every tenant, according to the report, and that is on top of the cost of council housing.

The money saved moving those in temporary housing to the council housing currently being wasted by fraudsters would be an excess of £2 billion every year. With councils looking for big savings in the coming years, £20 million in Hillingdon alone, such a misappropriation of taxpayers' funds is both alarming and unacceptable.Illegal subletting of social housing in Britain is much more common than originally thought—three times higher in fact. According to a new study, the fraudulent practice is costing taxpayers upwards of £2 billion a year - money that could be saved, or spent helping those truly in need.

Tower BlockThe fact that tenants are taking such advantage of the system is particularly troubling considering the current long waiting lists for social housing in the UK. In the London Borough of Hillingdon, for example, 600 more people were added to the council housing register this year compared to last. That means, in just a single London borough, there are a total of 7,856 individuals waiting to be housed.

Experian Public Sector put out the study and claimed an upwards of 160,000 council homes were being illegally sublet - roughly 3 per cent of the total UK social housing. Apart from the fact it is against the rules, if you are in a position to sublet your council house and still have somewhere else to live, you probably don’t need it in the first place. These are homes that could be offered to someone else.

Not enough is being done to deter such blatant disregard for the concept of social housing and it is regrettable that the taxpayer is bearing the monetary brunt. Worse still, the abusers face merely a slap on the wrist and a boot out the door should they get caught - though not before earning an estimated £20,000 a year from illegally renting out their social housing. The tenancy cheats can also currently rest assured knowing that criminal sanctions cannot be brought against them.

Eviction is not enough; councils should be more rigorous in their checks and must improve the way they manage the system. The council must do a better job ensuring that benefactors actually live at the address they were given. According to an article published in The Telegraph last month, the government is entertaining the notion of upping the ante should offenders be caught. Under the new guidelines, council housing abusers could also face jail time in addition to eviction. Certainly a step in the right direction, but it still does not close the loophole allowing tenants to abuse the system in the first place.

Before the study was revealed this week, the government thought 50,000 homes were being illegally sublet in the UK, a high number, but nowhere near the 160,000 that is now being claimed. Temporary housing costs approximately £18,000 a year for every tenant, according to the report, and that is on top of the cost of council housing.

The money saved moving those in temporary housing to the council housing currently being wasted by fraudsters would be an excess of £2 billion every year. With councils looking for big savings in the coming years, £20 million in Hillingdon alone, such a misappropriation of taxpayers' funds is both alarming and unacceptable.

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