Tenancy Fraud

The Tenancy Fraud Forum (TFF) and Fraud Advisory Panel (FAP) has published a new Report ‘Lost homes, lost hope’ which claims that 148,000 homes in England managed by Social Housing providers are fraudulently occupied.

Social Housing providers need to be aware that they may experience Tenancy Fraud and understand what can be done about it.

Tenancy Fraud can occur in the following circumstances:

  1. The tenant provides incorrect information

This happens when a prospective tenant has used a false name, false details, or false financial information to obtain a tenancy. A person may do this if they believe they will not be granted the tenancy with the correct details.

  1. Sublets

Subletting is when the named tenant from the tenancy agreement rents all or part of the property to someone else known as a subtenant. The subtenant will pay rent etc to the named tenant and the named tenant will pay the rent to the Social Landlord, essentially meaning the organisation has no idea who is occupying their property.

  1. Does not use the property as their only or main home

Finally, tenancy fraud can occur if the tenant isn’t using the property as their only or main home. This comes in conjunction with subletting but may also be that the tenant has moved out, leaving an occupier in the property, and they are acting as the tenant. Section 1(1) of the Housing Act 1988 states, “A tenancy under which a dwelling-house in England is let as a separate dwelling is for the purposes of this Act an assured tenancy if and so long as – (b) the tenant or, as the case may be, at least one of the joint tenants occupies the dwelling-house as his only or principal home”. Should the named tenant not use the property as their only home, they may lose their entitlement to an Assured tenancy.

The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) published an article confirming what Social Landlords can do to deal with tenancy fraud if it has already occurred or if there are suspicions that it may be about to.

They confirmed that dealing with this issue starts from the top of an organisation and involves acknowledging that there is always a risk of tenancy fraud, and having the resources to deal with it if it happens. This includes policies and procedures being in place for staff to refer to and follow.

CIH further advised while it is important to deal with it when it happens, it is equally as important to work on prevention as well as detection. This can be done through using ID verification, data sharing, taking photographs, tenancy audits, involving customers and dedicated officers to address the issue, and training across the organisation to understand the issue at hand.

If a Social Landlord identifies that a customer/tenant is committing tenancy fraud, legal action can be taken. For example, possession proceedings, rent repayment orders, and unlawful profit orders.

If you would like any more information on tenancy fraud, how to prevent and detect it, and what legal remedies may be open to your organisation, please contact Beth McKeown on the Social Housing team on bethmckeown@msbsolicitors.co.uk.

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