Housing tenancy fraud is the use of social housing by someone who is not entitled to occupy that home. It can take the form of making a false housing application, sub-letting the property without permission, or succession fraud (occupying a property after the death of the legitimate tenant). Of the approximately 3.8 million social housing properties in England, the Audit Commission’s 2010 report Protecting the Public Purse estimated that 50,000 were unlawfully occupied.
Unlawful occupation of social housing is a huge drain on public finances, because local authorities are under a legal obligation to house people in priority need. Every such property that is being fraudulently occupied is a home not available to people in genuine need, who then have to be allocated temporary accommodation, at an estimated average cost per household to the local authority of £18,000 a year. Tackling tenancy fraud is a cost-effective way of ensuring that social housing is made available for those who need it.
BBFI is committed to tackling housing tenancy fraud in partnership with registered housing providers. We investigate and prosecute offenders and get properties back into the providers’ hands so that they can be allocated to people in genuine need of housing. We field investigators with strong housing management and policing backgrounds to undertake investigative work leading to the appropriate civil and criminal actions. Maria McKeever joins the BBFI housing tenancy fraud team in 2012: she has previously worked with the housing association L&Q and with Lambeth Living and was instrumental, over two periods in 2011, in recovering 36 unlawfully occupied properties.
BBFI’s expertise is grounded in a thorough understanding of the legislation applicable to social housing cases, including the Fraud Act 2006 and the Theft Act 1968. Prosecutions and possession cases are carried out by us in the name of, and with the authority of, our instructing public body. We can apply for the recovery of assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Housing tenancy fraud may be found in combination with other illegal activities. We are experienced and successful in handling any criminal activity uncovered in the course of an investigation, providing specialist financial investigators and legal experts for such matters as: sale of counterfeit or stolen goods; Housing Benefit fraud; Council Tax fraud; visa overstays; serious organized crimes; and forgery. Wherever appropriate, we can instigate criminal investigations and civil proceedings, and where unlawful conduct can be shown we take the necessary steps to have related cash and assets seized.
If you are a social housing provider, we can scale our resources of information and highly trained staff to your requirements. We offer training and support to your own housing officers or investigators to complement your existing operations. We are confident that our service will represent a cost saving to you and will result in a significant reduction in tenancy fraud against your organisation, and we only charge for work that leads to possession of the property. We also work hard to publicise every successful anti-fraud case, leading to increased confidence in the provider and satisfaction amongst residents.
Let BBFI’s knowledge and focused approach help you to visibly and successfully tackle housing tenancy fraud, and make optimal use of your homes to benefit residents with a genuine need to occupy them.
“Paul has a detailed knowledge of Council procedures and is down to earth and culturally aware… I would have no hesitation in recommending Paul to carry out this type of operation in the future.”
“BBFI have the infrastructure, specialist staff and knowledge to start a fraud team and effectively run it.”
“In the first six months BBFI investigated 100 cases and closed 53. The housing officers in partnership with BBFI have recovered the keys to or issued Notices to Quit (NTQs) in eleven cases and 47 are open and under investigation. Some of the open investigation cases are under long-term surveillance. This equates to a property recovered or NTQ issued every seven days worked.”
“Total costs spent on the BBFI services to date total £25k. Taking into account the 3 cases where RTB applications were withdrawn and assets retained in our stock as well as three cases where vacant possession was gained without costs of legal action we estimate the savings to the housing association to be upwards of £300k”
“I am proud of what we have achieved so far with the continued help of BBFI.”
“Through the partnership our staff are being upskilled to enable them to carry out more complex investigations.”
“We did not have the resources or the experience to tackle such a far reaching problem and had no idea where to start. We decided to hire professionals, BBFI on a trial basis which became more permanent.”
“As a result of 31 investigations the right to buy team working with BBFI have uncovered fraudulent application and housing benefit fraud. Five applications have been withdrawn, each of which had a potential discount of over £100k. Of the 31 applications investigated nine have completed the intended home ownership and have purchased their homes and 17 are still under investigation.”