People subletting their home illegally have a chance to hand in the keys, no questions asked, as part of a key amnesty to help free up homes for those in genuine need.
Wiltshire Council is holding the amnesty from 11 January to 10 February before it begins a major clampdown on tenancy fraud using the latest software to help identify culprits.
Illegal subletting is costly to every Wiltshire Council taxpayer as it prevents families in need from having a home. The cost of putting one family in temporary accommodation for a year is £18,000.
Wiltshire Council won government investment to launch data matching technology to identify housing tenancy fraud. The sophisticated tenancy profiling software called “Who’s Home” was rolled out across the council’s housing stock in September 2015 and identifies where council properties are occupied by someone other than the council tenant. Already there are a number of cases being investigated as well as initial intelligence gathering, evaluation and risk assessment of matches.
Social housing tenants may be prosecuted for not occupying their home as their main residence and illegally subletting parts or the whole of their home. Any tenants found illegally subletting their council homes could face up to two years in prison, an unlimited statutory fine and will also have to pay back any profits they have made. There are more than 17,500 social housing properties in Wiltshire with 5,319 of those owned by Wiltshire Council
Dick Tonge, cabinet member responsible for finance said: “People subletting homes illegally are depriving another family of a permanent place to stay. We are giving those committing this crime a month to hand in keys with no questions asked. After that we will start our clampdown on this unfair practice which can deprive genuine families and individuals of a permanent place to stay.”
Someone commits tenancy fraud if:
- They give false information about themselves or use false documents when applying for housing
- They apply to succeed to a tenancy of someone who has died when they do not qualify by submitting false information
- They have a social housing tenancy already but live somewhere else
- They sublet the whole or part of their home to someone else without the consent of their landlord.
Anyone who hands in their keys to end their tenancy during the amnesty will not have legal action taken against them and the council can re-let the properties to legitimate applicants on the housing register.
Anyone who is illegally subletting or is not living in their council home can hand back their keys at reception at the Wiltshire Council offices in Bourne Hill, Salisbury, County Hall, Trowbridge, Bemerton Heath Estate Office, or Friary Estate Office in Salisbury.
Residents wishing to report somebody who may be illegally subletting or is not living in their home can call Wiltshire Council’s confidential hotline on 01249 706256. Fraud can also be reported on the council’s website www.wiltshire.gov.uk via the “Report a Fraud” feature which is also available on the My Wiltshire app, which is available for Android, Windows and Blackberry phones. You do not have to give your name and you can be assured of complete confidentiality at all times.