Callcredit welcomes Government's intention to criminalise tenancy fraud

Callcredit Information Group welcomes the announcement made by the Housing Minister, Grant Shapps MP that the Government intends to back a new private member's bill criminalising tenancy fraud as extremely good news for the estimated two million citizens currently on the UK's waiting social housing waiting list.

The Housing Minister's announcement followed the introduction into Parliament on Thursday 21st June of a private members bill, introduced by Conservative MP Richard Harrington. Mr Harrington's' Bill is to have its second Reading in the House on the 13th July and is likely to join the Statute Book later in the year. The new law will make it a criminal offence to sublet social homes and will allow the proceeds of any unlawful subletting to be reimbursed to the social landlord in whose stock the fraud was committed.

In his supporting statement the Housing Minister said, "Tenancy cheats profit from renting out homes that were built to help those in greatest needs and by introducing this effective deterrent against subletting, we can free up thousands of homes for those who genuinely need them".

Research published by Callcredit Information Group earlier this year demonstrated the extent and costs of tenancy fraud. It found that:

• There were 28,000 cases of tenancy fraud committed in local authority housing stock in 2011

• Despite this, detection rates amongst local authorities are below 10%

• 85% of all councils have no dedicated tenancy fraud strategy or dedicated fraud team in place - this is despite the fact that the Government says they should have

• Unlawful subletting is the most common fraud committed, followed by non-occupation of principal homes

Commenting on the Minister's announcement, Andrew Davis, Director of Public sector at Callcredit said: "Our data matching products are already helping local authorities and social housing groups to deal with this problem more effectively and when combined with this new legislation the days of social housing fraudsters not getting caught and punished is coming to a close.

Social housing fraudsters are one of the main reasons why social housing waiting lists are so long and their removal will dramatically shorten these lists quite quickly, to the benefit (and relief) of deserving families. We welcome Mr Harrington's bill and applaud the Government for supporting it, but would add that councils needs to do more to identify instances of tenancy fraud in the first place".

# Callcredit used data obtained from local authorities under the Freedom of Information Act. The survey findings are incorporated into a White Paper entitled 'Shutting the door on Tenancy Fraud'.