John backing bid to criminalise social tenancy fraud

John Healey has backed a Bill aimed at cracking down on subletting by council tenants, as it reached the crucial Committee stage.

At a recent Committee hearing the Wentworth and Dearne MP and former housing minister gave his backing to the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Bill, which will free up social housing and tackle the problem of unlawful subletting, which is thought to cost local councils at least £900m a year.

Speaking at the hearing he said: “I was the Minister in 2009 who introduced the first ever national campaign against fraud of this type.

“The number of properties recovered as a result of that campaign went up by 75%, but there is still quite a long way to go—and this Bill will help.

“The Audit Commission’s estimate of the number of properties in respect of which social landlords have lost control of the allocation is about 50,000—a figure from about three years ago.

“As a minimum, then, for the costs of temporary accommodation local authorities will be out of pocket by about £900 million each year.

“The penalties in the Bill will help to deter people from cheating the system and cheating their neighbours. It will help the detection of those who are cheating taxpayers and will help to take action against them.

“More than that, however, those who badly need the homes that are available for them and that they should have are being cheated when these homes are sub-let illegally for the private profit of those who cheat the system.”

The Private Members Bill seeks to create a new criminal offence for the unlawful subletting of social housing properties and introduces measures that will see sentences imposed on offenders and rights for local authorities to recoup any unlawful profits made.