Local council and social housing providers have teamed up to tackle tenancy fraud across Cambridgeshire – and are asking for residents’ help by reporting suspicions.
Around £350,000 of gGovernment funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government has been secured for the joint initiative which will set up a centralised and countywide approach to reporting and investigating suspicions.
Audit commission figures suggest tenancy fraud costs taxpayers around £1.8 billion each year and the Cambridgeshire Tenancy Fraud Forum is looking to raise awareness and crack down on the problem in the county.
The type of fraud that occurs ranges from when a council or social housing tenant sub-lets their property or allows other people to live there, to when people produce false information to secure a council house.
Last year the government introduced new laws through the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act, making it an offence for a tenant of social housing to sub-let their property.
Penalties for these crimes include prison sentences of up to two years.
South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC) currently has around 5,500 council properties and the funding is being used to employ an officer dedicated to detecting and investigating tenancy fraud.
Anyone with information about tenancy fraud can now report this through the Cambridgeshire Tenancy Fraud Forum website at www.cambstenancyfraud.net, or by calling Freephone on 0800 9520075.
Cllr Mark Howell, SCDC cabinet member for housing, said: “Social housing is in great demand so it is excellent news we have been able to secure funding to tackle fraud in partnership with the other councils in Cambridgeshire.
“A common approach will ensure the best results in all areas and most importantly give us the best chance of tracking down fraudsters who are taking up homes who could be better used by people on our waiting list who are in genuine need.
“Please remember, you can also play a part in helping us tackle fraud by reporting your suspicions on the website or by phone.
“All information can be given in confidence.”
The joint bid for funding was led by Huntingdonshire District Council on behalf of SCDC, Cambridge City Council, Fenland District Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council, Peterborough City Council and housing associations – bpha, Circle Housing Roddons, Cross Keys Homes, Luminus Group and Muir Group.
For all the latest news see Thursday’s (March 6) Echo