Tenancy fraud occurs when someone dishonestly gains access to or continues to occupy social housing under false pretences.

This could manifest in various ways, such as subletting a property without permission, providing false information on a housing application, or illegally swapping homes with another tenant.

Whilst it might seem like a minor offence to some, tenancy fraud is a significant issue that has far-reaching consequences on the supply of social housing and is something you should be aware of if you are a landlord.

Legal perspectives

The repercussions of tenancy fraud are severe, both for the fraudulent tenant and the social housing provider.

If a tenant is found to be engaging in fraud, they can face legal eviction from the property, along with possible fines or imprisonment.

From the perspective of law, tenancy fraud could lead to the recovery of the property under the Housing Act 1985 or the Housing Act 1996. According to these Acts, it is a criminal offence to make false statements to acquire a social housing tenancy.

The Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 also makes it easier to prosecute those engaged in subletting fraud and provides for penalties including imprisonment.

Civil penalties can also apply. For instance, landlords can obtain a Possession Order to recover their property, and they may also be able to recover any profits made by the tenant from subletting.

Impact on social housing supply

Tenancy fraud is not a victimless crime – it has a profound impact on the social housing sector.

Every property that is misused represents a home that could have been allocated to someone in genuine need. According to estimates, thousands of social homes may be subject to tenancy fraud, leading to waiting lists that are longer than they need to be. The scarcity of available social housing is exacerbated, leaving vulnerable individuals and families with fewer housing options.

Strategies for landlords

Given the serious ramifications of tenancy fraud on the social housing supply, landlords must adopt proactive measures to detect and prevent it.

  • Tenant verification: Robust verification processes during the tenant onboarding process are crucial. Landlords should verify identification, conduct thorough background checks and cross-reference information provided in the application forms.
  • Regular audits and inspections: Randomised inspections and audits can serve as effective deterrents to tenancy fraud. Ensuring that tenants are who they claim to be, and that they are using the property as their primary residence, can prevent fraud before it occurs.
  • Encourage reporting: A reporting mechanism for staff and neighbours can also be effective. Those who are in proximity to social housing are often the first to notice fraudulent activities.
  • Legal counsel: In cases where tenancy fraud is suspected or discovered, landlords should seek legal advice promptly to explore options for recovery of the property, and possibly, prosecution.

It is crucial for landlords to be vigilant in their tenant verification processes, perform regular audits, and maintain legal enforcement to deter such activities.

As always, understanding the law is essential in taking effective action against fraudsters, ensuring a fairer distribution of social housing for all.

You should speak to your solicitor the moment you suspect tenancy fraud has been committed.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.