SOCIAL housing cheats in Leigh are being offered a “no questions asked” deal if they hand their keys back to their landlord before the end of February.
The amnesty has been announced by Adactus Housing Association which says that from March it will use recent changes in the law to press criminal charges against people illegally subletting any of the 6,500 properties it owns in the Greater Manchester area.
Tenancy enforcement manager Kate Sullivan said: “The law was changed in 2013 and it is now a criminal offence to sublet a housing association property without the permission of the landlord.
“Offenders could get two years in prison and a fine of up to £5,000. They could also face a civil action to recover costs.
“As a landlord we take the issue of tenancy fraud, whether it’s moving out and letting to a stranger or just handing the keys on to a family member without going through the proper processes, extremely seriously and we have a member of staff dedicated to catching tenancy cheats. This amnesty is a chance for people to come clean and avoid punishment before we come down hard on those who think they can get away with it.”
Action by the Adactus tenancy enforcement teams has identified 37 social housing frauds in the last two years, two of which were in Leigh. Often fraud is identified as a result of tip-offs from members of the public and Adactus are urging the public to come forward and report any suspected illegal subletting.
Tell-tale signs include post being delivered to properties that doesn’t display the named tenant, different people seen coming and going and locks fitted on internal doors.
Ms Sulliivan said: “Anyone who suspects a tenancy fraud is being committed can telephone Adactus on 0845 505 3355 and we treat all reports confidentially.
“Tenancy fraud is sometimes portrayed as a victimless crime, but with a shortage of housing for those in the greatest need, fraudsters who illegally sublet their homes are depriving struggling families of the right to a suitable home. This amnesty is a chance for those who are breaking the law to think again and do the right thing.
“We will be coming down strongly on those that ignore the amnesty and think they can get away with it. The warning is loud and clear – hand back the keys or you could face a prison sentence.”