What does the Key Amnesty do?
Tenants who are breaking the rules and cheating others out of a home are being given a chance to change their ways and avoid being punished. Housing associations and local councils across Kent have agreed a key amnesty to tenants who are committing tenancy fraud such as by subletting their home or charging other people to live there while they stay elsewhere.During June’s month-long amnesty, tenants who hand in their keys so that their property can be offered to someone who really needs it will not face prosecution or legal action of any kind.
But as Chairman of the Kent Tenancy Fraud Forum Adam Simmonds pointed out, the amnesty has a sting in its tail.
“If the awareness raised by this campaign prompts someone to tell us they think a neighbour is defrauding the association, we will investigate in the normal way,” said Adam, who is the Investigation & Enforcement Support Officer at Ashford Borough Council.
“If that investigation finds someone is committing tenancy fraud, we won’t hesitate to take action, and that will usually involve prosecution. The June amnesty only applies to tenants who come to us.”
There are several ways in which tenants can defraud their local authority or housing association landlord, and the penalties can be severe, with a jail term of up to two years and fines of up to £50,000 possible.
“The most basic form of fraud is simply lying about your circumstances in order to rent a home you wouldn’t otherwise be entitled to,” explained Adam.
It is also against the law for a tenant to make a profit from subletting a spare room in the house without asking the landlord’s permission or to move out completely and charge another family or families rent on the home that is registered to them.
“There are also cases where the tenant dies and a relative falsely claims to have been living in the house for a number of years, sometimes claiming they were looking after the former owner, in order to be given the tenancy,” Adam went on to say.
“However it is done, tenancy fraud is a very serious issue. It restricts the amount of housing available for those with a genuine need and it is a drain on the public purse because the authorities have to provide people still on the list with temporary accommodation.This is a chance to avoid the consequences of being caught, which can be severe, by coming forward voluntarily during the amnesty. If they do that we will not take any further action, but if we are tipped off by someone else, it will be a different story,” he added.
Useful information/contact details
Ashford tenants wishing to hand their keys in can do so either at the Civic Centre, Tannery Lane, Ashford or at Tenterden Town Hall, 24 High Street, Tenterden.
Anyone who wishes to report what they believe may be fraudulent behaviour, or who believes they might be living in a home that is being sub-let illegally, should call 0800 0213 262 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The partners taking part in the key amnesty across Kent are:
Ashford Borough Council
East Kent Housing
Town and Country
West Kent Housing
Sanctuary Housing (based at Canterbury City Council)
Southern Housing Group