Successful operations targets council home fraudsters

magazine stackIn a major crackdown on tenancy fraud, 140 properties have been seized since April 2012 by Southwark Council under its anti-fraud housing initiatives including projects codenamed Operation Silver and Operation Bronze.

Under Operation Bronze - which sees false documents used to obtain tenancies - 17 properties have so far been recovered across the borough, of those 16 have already been relet to individuals and families who were previously living in temporary accommodation and other priority applicants awaiting a property allocation from the council's housing waiting list.

Operation Silver, carried out in conjunction with Callcredit Information Group, is the culmination of a data matching exercise with credit checking agency technology to cross reference tenants details, identifies inconsistencies leading to properties being later recovered.

Operation Silver has identified a significant number of leads.  Following a full investigation which commenced in August, the project has already led to the recovery of 21 properties.  Significant progress has also been made on a further 18 properties with tenants agreeing to their return. 

This project has also been successful in the area of Right to Buy.  Since the rate of discount was increased to £75,000 the number of applications received by Southwark Council has increased, and the Council has been quick to respond to this emerging fraud risk.  Through the Operation Silver project, 16 Right to Buy housing applications are being investigated.  Three of which have already been stopped with all three applicants agreeing to return the keys. 

Southwark is London's largest local authority social landlord. Councillor Ian Wingfield, cabinet member for housing, said:

"We are committed to successfully recovering council properties from the wrong hands and ensuring they are given to applicants with a genuine housing requirement.  We are constantly reviewing tenancy checks to make sure that the people living in council homes are the proper authorised tenants, and cracking down on suspected housing cheats. If we find that someone is committing housing fraud, we will take steps to recover the property and will evict them and pursue them for the cost of lost rent and council tax. No quarter will be given."

There will be a blitz on a number of estates with further tenancy checks and investigations planned during November and December at a number of residencies across the borough. The unscheduled visits will involve a multi partnership approach made up of Southwark Council anti-fraud staff, the UK Border Agency, Metropolitan Police, SASBU and the Safer Neighbourhood Team. 

Councillor Richard Livingstone cabinet member for resources, said, "We are seriously clamping down on fraud.  The Council's anti-fraud teams are working tirelessly with front line services to help further prevent and detect fraud in this and other service areas. Any fraudster should expect a knock on the door.  Committing fraud against the Council is stealing from your friends, family and the community."