Issued by City of York Council
An initiative to tackle housing fraud across North Yorkshire is being launched by a regional alliance led by Veritau.
In the past two years Veritau, a company owned by City of York Council and North Yorkshire County Council which investigates fraud within the public sector, has freed over 40 misused properties allowing them to be legitimately let. In addition Veritau has provided information to prevent 15 false applications for housing to City of York Council.
Veritau and City of York Council have now joined forces with eight other social housing providers within North Yorkshire to create an anti-housing fraud alliance. The partners are Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, Richmondshire District Council, Broadacres Housing Association, Harrogate Borough Council, Yorkshire Housing, Craven District Council, York Housing Association, and Selby District Council.
This partnership initiative focuses on identifying and prosecuting people who lie about their circumstances in order to obtain a property; tenants who unlawfully sublet their property; tenants who stop living at their property and people who provide false information to gain a property through succession rights.
Nationally, social housing fraud costs the public purse at least £900 million each year and in 2012, nearly two million families were on a waiting list for social housing. There are currently over 14,500 people or families in the North Yorkshire Home Choice scheme with over 1,000 applicants in the category of urgent need. A lack of social housing combined with the high cost of private rented properties in the area has made housing fraud attractive to criminals seeking to profit from the situation. It is important that properties being misused are identified and recovered as quickly as possible so that people on the waiting list can be housed.
The new Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 is expected to give the alliance new powers. The Act has received Royal Assent and is expected to come into law later this year. The legislation specifically outlaws the unlawful subletting of council and housing association properties and gives investigators new powers to obtain information.
The new partnership initiative includes a media campaign encouraging tenants and the general public to report any suspicions of dishonest subletting, property desertion or falsifying applications to Veritau’s fraud hotline. Concerns will then be investigated by social landlords’ staff and/or Veritau’s investigators.
Councillor Linsay Cunningham-Cross, City of York Council’s Cabinet Member for Crime and Stronger Communities, said: “We plan to stop those dishonest profiteers from exploiting homes at the expense of some of our most vulnerable people. This campaign, with the cooperation of honest neighbours, will help do just that. Housing fraud costs everyone too dearly to allow anyone to get away with it and I appeal to anyone with concerns that neighbouring social housing may be being abused to come forward.”
Councillor Tracey Simpson-Laing, City of York Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Housing and Adult Social Care, said: “Welfare reforms and increased pressures on housing make this campaign to crack down on housing fraud even more important. Thousands of affordable homes are desperately needed in the region by people in difficult circumstances and we want all our housing stock used by eligible people, not fraudsters.”
How to spot a potential fraudster:
· If you never or only very rarely see the tenant, call us. If a property is empty or not being lived in, it should be made available to someone who needs it.
· Do you live near a housing association/council property where the tenants keep changing? It could be unlawfully sublet with the real tenant making money from it. It’s estimated that 50,000 social housing properties across the UK are being unlawfully sublet.
· Do you know someone who has lied in order to be housed? They may have lied about where they used to live, how many people are in their family, or about other property they own. Lies like these take homes from people in greater need.
Do you have suspicions? If so, we need your help to tackle this problem.
To report suspected housing fraud in complete confidence, please call Veritau’s fraud hotline on 01904 552935 or email the fraud team.
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