East Kent Housing has joined other housing associations and councils across Kent in agreeing a key amnesty for tenants who are cheating the system.
Housing associations and local councils across Kent have agreed a ‘key amnesty’ to tenants who are committing tenancy fraud such as by subletting their home or charging other people to live there while they stay elsewhere.
During June’s month-long amnesty, tenants who hand in their keys so that their property can be offered to someone who really needs it will not face prosecution or legal action of any kind.
There are several ways in which tenants can defraud their local authority or housing association landlord, and the penalties can be severe, with a jail term of up to two years and fines of up to £50,000 possible.
Chairman of the Kent Tenancy Fraud Forum Adam Simmonds pointed out, the amnesty has a sting in its tail. “If the awareness raised by this campaign prompts someone to tell us they think a neighbour is defrauding the association, we will investigate in the normal way.
“If that investigation finds someone is committing tenancy fraud, we won’t hesitate to take action, and that will usually involve prosecution. The June amnesty only applies to tenants who come to us.
“The most basic form of fraud is simply lying about your circumstances in order to rent a home you wouldn’t otherwise be entitled to,” explained Adam.
It is against the law for a tenant to move out completely and charge another family or families rent on the home that is registered to them.
“There are also cases where the tenant dies and a relative falsely claims to have been living in the house for a number of years, sometimes claiming they were looking after the former owner, in order to be given the tenancy,” Adam went on.
"However it is done, tenancy fraud is a very serious issue. It restricts the amount of housing available for those with a genuine need and it is a drain on the public purse because the authorities have to provide people still on the list with temporary accommodation.
“This is a chance to avoid the consequences of being caught, which can be severe, by coming forward voluntarily during the amnesty. If they do that we will not take any further action, but if we are tipped off by someone else, it will be a different story.”
East Kent Housing tenants can hand their keys into the main reception desks at Dover District Council, Folkestone & Hythe District Council, Canterbury City Council and Thanet District Council (the Gateway in Margate).
They will be asked for their address for information only so that we can re-let the property – there will be no follow-up or prosecution. To report someone who may be committing tenancy fraud, call 01304 872296 or email KeyAmnesty@eastkenthousing.org.uk
Anyone who believes they might be living in a home that is being sub-let illegally is also urged to get in contact with East Kent Housing and they will be given as much advice and support as possible.