The government has announced proposed changes to current legislation regarding council housing in an attempt to minimise the current excessive expenditure. There have been discussions held regarding making council house subletting a criminal offence and imposing penalties on those found guilty of subletting.
Subletting is when a tenant lets out part or all of their accommodation to another person, this person is called a subtenant. The problem with subletting council accommodation is that some council house residents sublet their property and charge rental fees to their subtenant at or near market rate prices. The tenant however still only pays their landlord the council house rates and keeps the profit, this essentially defeats the object of providing “affordable” housing.
Council tenancy fraud is notorious for being a huge government expense, one which is costing the country billions of pounds. During the struggling economy, the government have been desperately trying to crackdown on fraudsters by investing £16m of state money to do so. In order to minimise the amount of money lost through fraud, the government intends to bring about harsher punishments to deter potential fraudsters and penalise those who get caught.
Currently, those caught subletting their council accommodation face eviction from their council property with no further action taken. The government believe this is not enough of a punishment and isn’t an effective deterrent to potential benefit thieves. In the new proposed legislation, fraudsters could face fines and even imprisonment should they be caught subletting council accommodation.
Further studies have revealed that approximately 6000 social housing tenants earn over £100,000 a year. Rent for council accommodation is generally £240 to £440 per month (higher rates may apply in London). The government’s argument is that those earning a higher income are able to afford private accommodation and, with the council housing waiting lists standing at 1.8 million families, priority needs to be given to families with lower incomes.
New laws will enforce that residents earning £100,000 or more will be evicted from their social housing if they fail to pay amounts nearer the market rate. With council house waiting list numbers currently incredibly high, the government aims to provide the “affordable” accommodation for those who need it most.
If you’re worried that the legal changes may affect your current housing situation you should contact criminal solicitors who specialise in benefit and council tenancy fraud. Should the new legislation come into force, imprisonment and fines can be imposed if you are found guilty of subletting. In which case, criminal solicitors can provide the expert legal knowledge to help you understand the law better.
Written by Stephanie Staszko on behalf of Gray and Co criminal solicitors who provide legal support on all areas of criminal law.