London’s biggest social landlord, Southwark Council, has launched a new anti-fraud tool to prevent illegal subletting.
The new website (www.ilatch.co.uk) will help identify landlords who profit from unlawfully subletting their council properties to unsuspecting tenants. A quick check of a property’s number and postcode, reveals if a house or flat advertised for rent is council owned or not.
If so, a report is immediately made to Southwark’s fraud team for further investigation. The team has already recovered more than 1,000 properties in the last three years using data matching technology and stringent occupancy checks.
The crime currently costs the council thousands of pounds and puts renters at risk of possible eviction if their property is found to belong to the council. Illegal subletting also reduces the number of council homes going to genuine applicants.
While the database is currently limited to council housing stock, Southwark hopes to join forces with housing associations, estate agents and local authorities from across the country to create a greater deterrent for fraudsters.
Councillor Richard Livingstone, cabinet member for housing, said: “We want to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to illegally sublet in Southwark. Nationally, we’re recognised for our efforts to curb illegal subletting through data matching and vigorous tenancy checks. Now we are going further: catching fraudsters as soon as they try to let the property and preventing unsuspecting renters from the inevitable knock on the door from our fraud officers, followed by eviction.”
“With ever increasing pressures on council budgets, it’s absolutely vital that our limited housing stock goes to people in genuine need and not criminal landlords.”
Lee Whitelock, director at estate agent Garrett Whitelock, said: “We’re delighted to be one of the first estate agents to sign up to ilatch and join Southwark in its fight against illegal subletting. The growing demand for housing presents opportunities for unscrupulous landlords to exploit renters. With ilatch we can now take proactive steps to weed out these fraudsters and work with responsible landlords to provide quality homes to renters.”