A North London council is recovering properties from fraudsters found to be ‘abusing the system’ following a series of investigations. Keys to four council-owned houses were returned to the local authority, saving it more than £350,000 in the process, according to Harrow Council.
Joint investigations involving the council’s corporate anti-fraud and housing teams last month (February) uncovered the fraudulent occupation of social housing. The homes are desperately needed to reduce the borough’s housing waiting list.
One individual was taken to court and subsequently evicted after they falsely claimed to have lived at the property prior to the death of their parent and refused to vacate the property. A second property was voluntarily handed over after officers were tipped-off that a tenant had been “dishonest” when declaring themselves homeless.
In another case, a tenant was found to not be living at the property. Little gas or electricity had been used, and they had not signed up to a water utility account despite having the tenancy for ten years. The keys were returned after notice was served.
Cabinet member for finance and human resources, Cllr David Ashton, said: “We are putting pressure on those abusing the system. It’s the job of our anti-fraud team to ensure taxpayers’ money is protected and used the way it should be.”
He added: “Thanks to the work of our officers, we have recovered several council homes which has saved us around £350,000. We will continue to protect the public purse and help those in genuine need of support.”
Since April 2023, Harrow Council claims it has recovered seven tenancies, protecting a total of more than £650,000 from fraud. It owns around 5,000 properties in the borough but only a few are made available for social housing each year. Consequently, demand outstrips supply leaving many families in need unable to secure accommodation.
Cabinet member for housing, Cllr Mina Parmar, said: “There is a huge demand for social housing with many who have been waiting a very long time for a home. It is unfair there are a few abusing the system and denying families and individuals in genuine need of a home.”
She added: “I’d like to thank our teams for putting our residents first and helping get these properties back to us. We will continue to fight tenancy fraud and bring the law onto those who think they are above the law.”