Work of council fraud investigators in Barnet to expose tenancy fraud has led to almost 50 council houses being re-let to people in genuine need in one year.
During 2014/15 48 council properties had their tenancies ended after investigators from the council’s Corporate Anti-Fraud Team (CAFT) scuppered attempts for them to be illegally sub-let or established that they were not being lived in.
The recovery of each property is calculated as being worth £150,000 – the equivalent average cost of building a new social housing unit. In total this is equivalent to saving the taxpayer £7.2million.
Some of the cases dealt with by investigators in the last year include a council tenant who illegally sublet his one bedroom council flat in Hendon by advertising it on the Gumtree website just weeks after being handed the keys.
He later pleaded guilty to the fraud and fraudulently claiming benefits and was handed an eight-week suspended sentence.
In another case a council tenant pleaded guilty and received an eight-week curfew order in March after investigators established that she was not living in the council property she had held a tenancy on since 1995.
It was found that she had swapped life in Barnet for being the landlady of a pub in Clacton-on-Sea in August 2013. She then rented out her council property to a family member.
During the same 12 months CAFT officers successfully prevented 24 fraudulent attempts to take advantage of ‘Right to Buy’ to purchase council properties at a discounted rate.
Councillor Richard Cornelius, Barnet council leader, said: “In these difficult economic times it is very important that we protect every penny of taxpayers’ money that we can.
“The numbers of attempts to commit tenancy fraud successfully being detected by our fraud investigators shows just how important their work is.”
Troy Henshall, chief executive of Barnet Homes, said: “This is a remarkable achievement and many congratulations to everyone who helped make it happen through true partnership working.
“The demand for affordable homes in Barnet is much greater than the number of properties available, so this releases 48 much needed homes for deserving families in the borough.”
Michelle Britton and her family were able to move from two-bedroom temporary accommodation to a three-bed home thanks to the property being recovered following a successful investigation into tenancy fraud.
She said: “I know I am really lucky to get this house as I had looked at other properties which were flats and well outside the area. I am now living in a three-bed property and my eldest son can now have his own room.
“This has been so much better for him, he is much calmer. And so am I. I was constantly worrying about where we were going to live – my son has moved five times and he is only five.”