With nearly 1.8 million people on the UK’s housing registers, tenants who sub-let or unlawfully occupy social properties are definitely on landlords’ radars. But tenancy fraud is no bright target bleeping clearly across the screens – it’s a murky, ill-defined blob that is difficult to detect, can surface anywhere and may disappear on closer inspection. The only certainties are that there’s a lot more of it than social landlords may realise, and that their legal bills will be massive. For Inside Housing’s legal supplement, I investigated their options.
The Audit Commission suspects 50,000 social homes, worth more than £2bn, are occupied by people who aren’t entitled to them. But even though tenancy fraud appears to be rife on Britain’s council estates, it’s devilishly hard to detect and even harder to prove. For this Inside Housing article, I got to grips with the very complex legal tools at housing officers’ disposal, and discovered that detective work is definitely not the preserve of the police. Family photos, children’s toys, even toothbrushes can all be dead giveaways – but only if you know what you’re looking for.
I didn’t expect the former Lady Mayoress of Blackburn, a declared authority on “giant radishes and chrysanthemums” and a qualified cricket umpire, would have much in common with a Croydon-based construction manager who also happens to be Sierra Leone’s answer to Kevin McCloud. And yet, when I interviewed them both for a “Meet the Members” special in the CIOB’s Construction Manager magazine, the conversation was eerily similar. Both have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, both pack more into a 24-hour period than I’d think was practical in a week, and both wonder how they’re possibly going to get everything done while happily taking on even more. I have a feeling they’d get on like a house on fire if they ever met, but I can’t imagine either would have the time.