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Judith McNameeLandlord Policy Tenancy Fraud Awareness
Introduction • What is Tenancy Fraud? • Why tackle Tenancy Fraud? • NIAO’s Report on Tackling Social Housing Tenancy Fraud in Northern Ireland – What we are doing to prevent, detect & pursue fraud?
What is tenancy fraud? • Housing tenancy fraud is the use of social housing by someone who is not entitled to it. • Giving false information on a housing application • Abandonment of a property and living elsewhere • Subletting a property to someone who is not entitled to live there • False succession • Right to Buy Fraud • Signs to look out for • Minimal furnishings • No electricity supply • No gas meter (removed due to non usage) • Build up of post • No access • Reports from local residents
Why tackle tenancy fraud? • Best use is not made of our housing stock • Increased waiting times for applicants and transfers on the waiting list • Increased time spent by homeless households in temporary accommodation and associated costs • Increase in related criminal activities and benefit fraud • Costs associated with building new units of accommodation to ease waiting list pressures • Social impact issues • Unlawful sub-tenants may not be aware of their status thus making them vulnerable to being charged increased rents and deposits and at risk of unlawful evictions and homelessness • A drain on resources due to the costs of investigations and potential court proceedings • An increased risk of disrepair and damage to our property given the reluctance to report repairs or accept improvement schemes.
NIAO Office Report • Recommendation 1 - DSD should require NIHE/HAs to produce dedicated fraud strategy • Tenancy Fraud Strategy - Background • Prevent, detect and pursue • Action Plan • Photographing tenants at Sign Up • Unannounced visits within 1st year of tenancy • Reviewing reporting and recording mechanisms • Data sharing with utility companies • Use of Experian Citizenview • General Publicity • Implementation
Report Recommendations Continued Recommendation 2 - Strategies should draw on Best Practice established in England • Training • Media campaigns • Report on-line/ phone • Photographing new tenants • Tenancy audits – blitz • Unannounced visits – ID/ residency verification • Data matching • Social media – controversial?
Report Recommendations continued Recommendation 3 - DSD should consider establishing a single tenancy fraud team to provide investigative services for both sectors • Initial discussions with DSD • NIHE Counter Fraud and Security Unit
Report Recommendations continued Recommendation 4 - Compilation of more comprehensive statistics and reporting directly to DSD • Social Housing Tenancy Fraud Referral Form • Good Housing Management – Abandonment Register • Tenancy Fraud Register • Verification Register
Report Recommendations continued Recommendation 5 – DSD, NIHE and local Housing Associations should be represented at a local Tenancy Fraud Forum • Tenancy Fraud Forum • Oversight group – chaired by Department • Discussions on-going to formalise as NI regional group • Chair of regional groups is representative for national executive of Tenancy Fraud Forum
Case study • NIHE flat advertised on gumtree.com for £350 per month • ‘Private’ tenant rented from NIHE tenant for several months • Gas service engineer left no access card • Private tenant contacted gas company and was told NIHE own property • Private tenant phoned NIHE who confirmed they owned property
Case study continued • Private tenant moved out of property realising her mistake • NIHE tenant re-advertised property on Gumtree for £450 per month • Matter referred to CFSU – now with PSNI • NIHE was claiming HB as well as sub-letting • Property regained • NIHE tenant had received £2700 in rent from the Private tenant and £1500 had been paid in HB.