Council home sub-let fraud crackdown plans considered

A housing estate in Derbyshire
Image caption An estimated 1.8 million families are waiting for a council home

Council tenants who sub-let their homes could be jailed under proposals being considered by the government.

New laws would target an estimated 50,000 people who rent out their council homes while living elsewhere.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps told the Daily Telegraph those abusing the system could have their homes taken from them and face imprisonment.

There is currently no criminal sanction against council home sub-letting, which is believed to cost about £5bn a year.

Under the proposals, properties taken from the sub-letter would be freed up to be rented to those in greatest need on the housing waiting list.

An estimated 1.8 million families are waiting for a council house.

Mr Shapps told the Daily Telegraph: "Social housing is really precious and it's not right that tenancy fraud and abuse locks out some of the most vulnerable families from getting a roof over their heads."

Some people who sub-let are thought to earn as much as £20,000 a year from the arrangement.

Lucy Brett-Crowther, a retired council and housing association auditor, told the BBC the problem was difficult to tackle without adequate funding.

"It requires out-of-hours visits, staking out, persistence and tenacity once the fight back begins," she said.

"The authorities have been too frightened to be positive in their requirements. While it is important to maintain a high standard in civil liberties, inaction minimises them."

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