Source: City of Southampton
Council housing fraud is a serious offence as it prevents people with genuine need from accessing social housing.
In Southampton, the average waiting time for a three-bedroom council home is currently six years, and according to Government estimates, approximately 310 council properties were illegally occupied in the city in 2018.
Nationally, housing fraud cost the public purse around £216m in 2018.
The council is working hard to root out housing cheats, having increased its resources to investigate and track down people who:
- Make illegal profits by subletting their council home to others
- Cheat the system by making a fraudulent Right to Buy claim
- Try to jump the queue by lying on their housing application (for example by claiming to have children when they don’t)
- Live in a property without permission after someone has died
Housing fraud usually carries serious penalties, including a fine or even a prison sentence and the prospect of being barred from applying for social housing in the future.
But to coincide with national Tenancy Fraud Awareness Week, which runs 15-21 November 2020, Southampton City Council will allow fraudsters to return their keys anonymously during the whole month of November – in what’s being called a “key amnesty”.
All people need to do is:
- Enclose their keys in an envelope
- Attach the property address
- Drop the keys through the post box of one of the council’s Local Housing Offices
- Do this before 30 November 2020
The council will suspend its investigations and offenders won’t be fined during November, but from 1 December 2020, its enforcement action will return.
Councillor Satvir Kaur, Cabinet Member for Homes and Culture, Southampton City Council, said: “Housing fraud is a national problem and costs cities like Southampton millions of pounds each year; this money could be spent supporting and protecting our most vulnerable or building more homes that local people desperately need. With waiting lists so high, we all have a responsibility to ensure that those most in need can access the limited council housing available. So, I am encouraging people to please make the most of our key amnesty. If you don’t, the extra measures we have put in place to crack down on fraudsters mean you will be found, and you could face legal action.”
The council relies on tenants and leaseholders to help identify incidents of housing fraud. People are asked to contact their Local Housing Office or report any suspicious activity via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All reports will be treated in the strictest confidence and can be made anonymously.