Northumberland County Council is leading the way on tenancy fraud in the region, following the establishment of the North East Tenancy Fraud Forum (NE-TFF) earlier this year.
Set up by the county council's corporate fraud team, the forum membership includes registered social landlords and local authorities from across the North East.
To raise awareness of tenancy fraud, the NE-TFF is campaigning across the region this week as part of International Fraud Awareness Week and will cover areas including abandonment, subletting and misrepresentation. The council’s fraud team are encouraging residents to report any suspected fraudulent behaviour and will investigate any reports made.
It is estimated that tenancy fraud costs the country more than £50million a year, leaving families who are in desperate need of secure and affordable housing in temporary accommodation.
The awareness week will focus around four key themes:
Abandonment of properties by tenants which can lead to squatting and vandalism of properties. The team have been working alongside housing officers since April 2014 and has successfully recovered 18 properties from abandonment, which are now being used as social housing;
False applications for social properties, including false homeless applications;
Right to Buy fraud, which includes providing false information on Right to Buy or Right to Acquire applications and buying a property through a third party. In the past 12 months, Northumberland County Council has withdrawn 30 Right to Buy applications, further saving £1.2million in discounts;
Unlawful subletting of properties, where a tenant rents out their home without the knowledge or permission of the landlord.
New legislation has given investigators powers to obtain more information when investigating tenancy fraud to ensure fraudsters are caught and made accountable for their actions.
Coun John Riddle, cabinet member for housing, said: "International Fraud Awareness Week is an excellent opportunity to spread knowledge and awareness across the county and the region on tenancy fraud.
"Tenancy fraud can lead to anti-social behaviour in neighbourhoods and leaves families who are in desperate need of housing on the waiting list, and in temporary accommodation. Cracking down on tenancy fraud will undoubtedly benefit many families across the county."
Anyone that suspects any type of tenancy fraud is encouraged to report it via the Northumberland County Council Fraud Hotline on 01670 624359, firstname.lastname@example.org or online via the website.