analysis of responses to its consultation on proposals to reduce the incidence of fraud relating to social housing in England, including introducing a new criminal offence of tenancy fraud.
The analysis appeared at the same time as Second Reading of a Private Member’s Bill, introduced by Richard Harrington MP and supported by the Government, which will take forward key elements of the consultation proposals.
The Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Bill seeks to establish a new criminal offence, but only in those situations where a tenant who is not in occupation unlawfully sub-lets or parts with possession (which would include key-selling). The offence would carry penalties ranging from a fine to a maximum custodial sentence of two years. The Bill would also allow local authorities to prosecute for offences in the Bill on behalf of housing associations and other local authorities and allow social landlords to recover the profits made by tenants who sub-let their property without permission.
Back in March 2010 the New Local Government Network called for legislative changes to allow the prosecution of those subletting social housing. The Labour housing minister at the time John Healey promised action, so we can assume there will be all party support for Harrington's Bill.
The DCLG also favours establishing a 'mandatory gateway' to force banks, building societies and utility companies to share data in respect of tenancy fraud, but has deferred action pending discussions with the Home Office and other government departments.