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 o Photographing tenants at Sign Up o Unannounced visits within 1 st year of tenancy o Reviewing reporting and recording mechanisms o Data sharing with utility companies o Use of Experian Citizenview o 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.