The Conservative Group Housing Spokesman on Brighton & Hove City Council Cllr. Garry Peltzer Dunn has welcomed the announcement today by Housing Minister Grant Shapps MP that the Government plans to make sub-letting of social housing a criminal offence.
Tenants can earn thousands of pounds a year renting their homes out to private tenants but, if caught, currently face no greater penalty than losing their tenancy. It is estimated that nationally between 50,000 and 160,000 social homes are currently being sub-let in this way. Anecdotal evidence suggests that sub-letting is also a live problem in Brighton & Hove and Cllr. Peltzer Dunn is putting a question to the next Full Council meeting in order to ascertain the scale of the problem locally.
The Governments proposals include:
Making a new criminal offence of tenancy fraud with a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to £50,000
Reimbursing the proceeds of tenancy fraud to the social landlord in whose stock the fraud was committed rather than being confiscated by
Giving councils greater powers to investigate tenancy fraud through better access to data from banks and utility companies.
Commenting on the proposals, Cllr. Peltzer Dunn said: Im delighted that the Government is grasping the nettle on this issue. Tenancy fraudsters undermine what is a vital support system for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Social housing is allocated by the council in all good faith and this repugnant practice denies genuine families the opportunity of a stable home. I am raising this issue at the next Council meeting in order to better understand the
scale of the problem in Brighton & Hove and also to find out what the Council is currently doing to stop it. As ward councillors, we have probably all come across cases where this is happening and Im convinced that these new powers will both act as a deterrent and also make it easier for councils to act to stamp it out. Like squatting, sub-letting has always been morally wrong and so it is only right that it is now also becomes legally wrong.