There is currently no criminal sanction against those subletting their council homes.

Seriously?

Ministers are targeting the 50,000 people who cash in on their council homes by renting them out while they live elsewhere.

Under new laws those abusing the system will have their homes taken off them and face imprisonment, The Daily Telegraph can disclose,

About time too then.

I\’m sure we\’ll see some pieces describing the outrage that this is. That we\’d be disturbing the ecosystem of the lumpenproletariat or something.

But I can\’t see the problem with prosecuting those defrauding the taxpayer really.

13 thoughts on “You what?”

  1. Why would there be a criminal sanction? If a private tenant breaks the terms of his lease, it’s a civil matter. Why should a council tenant be any different?

    Good luck fixing this, by the way. Turfing out the ‘wrong’ tenants and installing the ‘right’ tenants isn’t going to affect revenue, and anyway council housing departments are almost certainly in on it anyway.

  2. @Roue, because they aren’t private tenants breaking the terms of their lease. They are welfare recipients ripping off the tax payer.

  3. @ChrisM, they are breaking the terms of their tenancy agreement. Council tenants cannot transfer the tenancy on to anyone else, not even family except in the situation where a husband or wife dies and the other takes it on. That’s why some old people who have lived in a council home all their lives are kicked out – the agreement had already been transferred between their parents and can’t be transferred to them.

    Section 3.4.3 of http://www.reading.gov.uk/housing/counciltenants/yourtenancyagreement/General.asp?id=SX9452-A7802831 is an example.

    So whilst it’s not a criminal offence to sub-let, council tenants can be kicked out for sub-letting. The fact that the government thinks they need a new law to do what they can already means they can’t control the housing departments in councils.

  4. @SBLM, you are doubtless correct, I didn’t mean to imply that such people were actually breaking the law. I meant to argue that nonetheless what they were doing couldn’t really be fairly equated to a private tenant breaking the terms of their tenancy agreement.

    So, the government has a law they could already use, but instead choose to create a new one. Say it ain’t so!

  5. Councils don’t like people subletting. They already have the means to evict such people. This is a government in trouble showboating, and in a rather dangerous way, since it is turning a civil contractual matter into a criminal offence.

  6. The laws are already there to deal with this:

    – If the tenants do something fraudulent, they can be prosecuted for fraud.

    – If they sub-let, then under the terms of their lease they can be evicted.

    Yes, there are problems with it; the police aren’t interested in investigating fraud, and the CPS isn’t interested in prosecuting. And the courts are far too unwilling to evict ‘social housing’ tenants.

    But the answer to that is to toughen up and enforce the law for everyone, not to give this special protection to the State’s leases that we don’t give to private landlords.

    (and, as Marksany said at #1, if they charged market rent most of the problem would go away)

  7. It’s all linked with benefit fraud. Here’s an everyday story of London folk:

    Mr A (on benefits and living in social housing, which for convenience I shall refer to in the old-fashioned manner as a council flat) meets Ms B (ditto). Nature takes its course, and several little alphabets are born.

    Being a decent sort, Mr A moves in with Ms B and the children. But do they tell the authorities? Of course not. By living apart, Mr A claims benefits as a single man, and Ms B claims them as a single mother – collectively more than they would get as a family.

    But that isn’t the big money-spinner, by a long chalk.

    The big money-spinner is that they each continue to have a council flat. And that council flat does not just enjoy a subsidised rent, but even that low rent is paid (or 90% paid) by Housing Benefit (as is the related Council Tax).

    They therefore enjoy two flats, almost or entirely free.

    But since they are only living in one flat, they sub-let the other one, generally to people who have moved to London looking for work. Long ago it was northerners, then eastern europeans, but there’s always someone who wants somewhere cheap to live in London and won’t be too worried about the legal position.

    So Mr A and Ms B get rental income, on a flat that they don’t own, without having to pay any rent on it.

  8. @SBML your point is taken, but actually that agreement doesn’t prohibit sub-letting (creating a lesser interest out of a leasehold interest) although the clause you point to does create a breach of the lease on an assignment (technically not the same thing because the original tenant is no longer party to the agreement).

    The agreement does also deem a breach if the tenant moves out for more than a month or ceases to treat the property as their primary residence, both of which might be difficult to prove.

    The clause that got me was 3.3.5: “You must not discriminate against anyone because of their race, colour religion or nationality, sex, age, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation (i.e. being lesbian or gay) or for any other reason.”

    For *any other reason*? And you lose your home? Because they smell funny? Because they
    aren’t good enough to play on your football team? Because you dumped your girlfriend?

  9. Part of the problem here is exhorbitant land values. Yes, I sound like Mark Wadsworth, sorry. Many of the people who complain about this kind of thing are the same people who persistently pressurise the government into policies which actively maintain high land prices via the planning permission system, green belts, “save the bluebell wood” rubbish, marching around like weenies every time an evil “developer” tries to build a few fucking houses. Because their own capital is tied up in high land prices, or they are landlords themselves, and so on.

    So, let’s get a free market in land and watch those rents fall, thus reducing the perceived social need for social housing. I guess we all on this blog would like to see an end to schemes like council housing and much else the State does. But let’s not forget the rent-seeking type subsidy to every private landowner from the State, who squeal mightily any time prices fall even slightly towards the level the market is trying to set, with “ooh negative equity” and so on.

    The rent is too damn high. Let it fall, and screw the bluebell wood.

  10. I agree with a free market in land but why should people be given free housing in London?
    If everyone who doesn’t work but lives in London was forced to move to empty houses, there would be enough houses for workers.

    I am not sure if this is a left wing or right wing policy but it seems logical!

  11. S3 Fraud Act 2006 – dishonestly failing to disclose information you are under a legal obligation to diclose for financial gain.

    If you rent out your house you have to declare the income. If they are not it’s a S3 fraud and the local authority can prosecute fraud already.

    If there is a problem doing this it will be that HMRC refuse to disclose the information to the LA.

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