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30/11/2009

Shop an unlawful sub-tenant, win £500

The Government has decided to have a campaign against unlawful sub-tenancies of social housing, or rather against the unlawful landlords and tenants both. The estimated figures are that between 50,000 and 200,000 social properties are occupied by unauthorised occupants and, given the utter lack of social housing and a waiting list estimated at at least 1.8 million households, they want something done.

What is to be done is apparently to pay tenants £500 to shop an unauthorised neighbour. M

Local authorities are “expected to target 8,000 tenancy cheats in a first wave of investigations this week across 145 local authorities after a trawl of council records by the Audit Commission”. That leaves anything between 42,000 to 192,000 to deal with. (Is it just me having trouble with the mind boggling imprecision of that estimate? Look I know I owe you some money, I think it is somewhere between £50 and £200… There is no doubt that unlawful sublets are widespread and that in many of those cases, someone is profiting from social housing that they do not require. But an estimate like that is meaningless.)

192,000 at 500 quid a pop to the public spirited neighbours – I make that £96,000,000, probably double with the costs of possession proceedings, so £192,000,000. Hmm. I smell a PR stunt.

But there are further questions – do you only get the £500 if you shop a genuine unlawful occupation, or just someone a bit dodgy? And when do you get it – after successful possession proceedings? With Christmas coming up, the timing of such things is important.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

10 Comments

  1. chris

    quite looking forwards to some interesting possession hearings – county court has been so very quiet lately. Has the government said what it intends to do with these 42k – 192k people they make homeless?

    Reply
  2. house

    It’s only for the first 1000 people but it’s rather similar to the whole we’ll stop homes being left empty stuff that pops up every now again.

    I’d be interested to know in a years time how many properties had been repossessed. My guess is about 10.

    Reply
    • NL

      Sounds about right. But with only 1000 offers, it is time to shop your neighbour now. Don’t delay or you’ll miss out.

      Reply
  3. house

    Yep I was seeing if I had any clients I could shop as I could do with some extra cash ;)

    Joking. obviously!

    Reply
  4. Richard Paris

    richard paris | Mon, 30 Nov 2009 19:10 GMT

    I am not condoning tenancy fraud or unlawful sub-letting of social housing BUT excuse me – some MPs have been blatantly unlawfully claiming expenses on their second homes – we await possible CPS prosecution for criminal fraud.

    No-one is highlighting owner-occupiers who might be sub-letting in breach of loan covenant/mortgage deed – perhaps similar condemnation from Housing Minister in order to be ‘fair’ and ‘consistent’ is called for.

    And there maybe a £500.00 ‘bounty’ for ‘grassing up’ one’s social housing neighbour – do they really not expect many allegations, some of which might just turn out not to be true!!

    I am not condoning tenancy fraud or unlawful sub-letting BUT maybe, just maybe there is some differential application of moralistic standards here!!

    Reply
  5. Jim Paton

    Richard Paris has taken the words off my fingertips. I, too, smell double standards as well as a PR stunt.

    How are you to know if the neighbour you are aiming to grass up profitably is the sub-tenant of a long tenant (or “leaseholder” as they’re confusingly called -but all tenants are leaseholders), so NOT subletting unlawfully or if they’re the sub-tenant of a periodic tenant, in which case it IS unlawful? I am an active council tenant, but I don’t necessarily know which of my neighbours is what kind of tenant.

    The precept in 1066 And All that applies; “these distinctions should be kept clearly in mind”. But they seem to have eluded government. Council tenants will have to be aware of them, however, to collect their £500.

    Best not order that large extra delivery of festive comestibles just yet.

    Reply
    • Marcin

      Simple solution: shop all of your neighbours, and hope that one of the accusations sticks.

      Reply
      • NL

        Shop’em all and let Voids sort ’em out?

        Ah, but if you check the small print, you’ll have to pay £100 back for the time involved in checking each false accusation… [N.B. For any wannabe shoppers, this is probably not true]

        Reply
  6. Jim Paton

    You are, of course, right to say “in many of those cases, someone is profiting from social housing that they do not require”. There are also cases where the tenant is not profiting at all, merely installing a friend while they are abroad for a year or two and the friend is simply covering the rent.

    Getting back to the double standards, there are cases where a hefty profit is being made on a flat which was originally “right to buy”, but the unexpired portion of the lease has been sold on and the profiteer turns out to be now an obscure company with an address in a tax haven.

    Meantime, private tenants are the Cinderella residents on our estates, with no security beyond an AST, no stake in the place like their neighbours, and ignored by officialdom unless they are a nuisance (which most are not, of course). If they are a nuisance, the council is going to pursue or enforce against the dodgy company leaseholder in the tax haven is it? Theoretically, maybe, but in real life the most likely venue for proceedings is Santa’s grotto.

    Reply
  7. Chris B

    Over 20 years ago I went to my local council seeking housing as a spot of homelessness was impending. I was young, fit, healthy, carefree and wholly lacking in wives and children (sadly none of these descriptions still apply 20-odd years later). I still remember that one option suggested to me by the officer down at the HPU was that I might try to find someone who was willing to unlawfully sublet their council flat and buy their key off them. Even then, knowing nothing of housing law – or any other kind of law for that matter, I thought it damned odd that the council were telling me that I might want to try unlawfully subletting a council flat.

    If this £500 a pop bounty on unlawful subletters takes off I suppose the moral of the story is to try to dishonestly acquire your tenancy from a corrupt housing officer rather than from a corrupt council tenant – see Birmingham City Council v Qasim & Ors [2009] EWCA Civ 1080. On the matter of what is to be done with all the illegal subletters who are dragged out of their cosy little boltholes into the cruel, cruel daylight, well I think it is pretty safe to imagine that the councils won’t want to rehouse them and will find them intentionally homeless {I think there is a case near enough on point). What would, of course, be a rather nifty move would be for council’s to de-prioritise waiting list applications from unlawful subletters. I’m pretty sure this could be done lawfully – although I realise that others may hold different views or would at least want to try their luck at judicially reviewing an allocations policy that purported to do this.

    Reply

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