Social Housing Fraud Does Not Go Unpunished – High Court Cracks Down

Social housing is an intensely scarce resource and its desirability can sadly make it a target for fraud. Such behaviour does not go unpunished, however, and in one case a couple who told a farrago of lies in an attempt to cover up their dishonest subletting of their flat were evicted by the High Court and stripped of every penny of rent that they had illicitly pocketed.

The couple were lucky enough to be granted an assured tenancy of a two-bedroom flat in an area with one of the longest housing waiting lists in the country. Their lease forbade them from subletting the property and required them to live in it as their only or principal home.

Following a tip-off, their landlord, a social housing provider, discovered that they had moved out to live with a relative and had sublet the flat to others who were paying them £400 per month in rent. One of the flat’s bedrooms had been kept locked and filled with toys and a cot to give the impression that they were still living there with their two children.

The couple’s mendacious and absurd explanations for their absence from the flat were rejected by a judge, who issued a suspended possession order against them on the basis that they had not given up possession of the whole flat and had thus not sacrificed their security of tenure. Their landlord, however, appealed on the basis that only an outright possession order would suffice to mark their behaviour.

In upholding the landlord’s arguments, the Court found that the judge had been taken in by the couple before reaching a decision that was fatally and demonstrably flawed. On the evidence, the couple were profiteering fraudsters who had abused their position as social tenants of a flat that thousands of needy people on the waiting list would have been thankful for.

In the circumstances, the Court directed the couple to give up possession of the flat within 21 days and made an unlawful profit order under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013. That order required them to pay to their landlord £1,550, representing the rent that they had unlawfully received from their subtenants.