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Victim of Tenancy Fraud

There is a serious housing shortage across the country which has led to a substantial increase in private rent levels.  As a result, it is becoming increasingly common for a number of frauds to be perpetrated against those who are seeking housing by social landlord tenants and others. We hope the advice below will help you stay safe and give you the tools to avoid being scammed.

Remember, fraud is a criminal offence and if you think you think that you have been defrauded, then you must report the matter to the Police. If you have been conned by a social landlord tenant please contact us. We can then make sure the housing association or council are made aware and take appropriate action.
 

The Law

ThinkstockPhotos-Landing Page_Fulham Pal

The Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013

 

It is a criminal offence under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 to sublet a social property whether for profit or not.

The penalty for doing so ranges from a fine or up to two years in prison or both. We have increasingly seen the Criminal Courts send offenders to prison for this offence.

Signing a Contract

Estate Agents

Estate Agents

Estate Agents must check that the person who wishes to rent a property as a landlord has the authority to do so and simply asking ‘are you allowed to rent this’ is not sufficient in our view.

 

The Accommodation Agencies Act 1953 Section 1 (1) (c) states that: A person shall be guilty of an offence if that person issues any advertisement, list or other document describing any house or dwelling as being let without the authority of the owner of the house or his agent.

 

The onus is on the letting agent to ensure that the purported owner of the dwelling is in fact the true owner.  If this offence is committed, then the local authority are the prosecuting are the prosecuting body and the estate agent can receive a substantial fine.

Real Estate Agent

Contract

Contract

In situations like this, there are two contracts: one between the social landlord and the social tenant and between the social tenant and the people he or she illegally sublets the property to.

 

There is no contractual link between the social landlord and the private tenant and the social landlord does not have to let the private people remain living in the property once they have obtained possession from the social tenant.

House Tour

Deposit Holding

Scheme

Deposit Holding Scheme

If you have unwittingly entered into an agreement to rent a property from a social tenant and paid a deposit, then that deposit must be protected by the landlord putting it into a deposit holding scheme.

Signing a Contract

Tenancy Agreement

Tenancy Agreement

 

Even if your social tenant landlord has not given you a tenancy agreement, that doesn’t mean you have any less rights in terms of your contractual relationship with them.

 

If they haven’t given you an agreement, then you’ll be regarded as an assured shorthold tenant which means you have the legal right remain in the property for at least six months so long as you continue to pay the rent and do not cause any problems such as causing anti-social behaviour.  That doesn’t mean, though, that your landlord can just force you to move out unless they have a possession order from the Court.

 

Do remember, however, that if the housing association or council take possession action against your landlord, then the Bailiff will evict anyone who lives in the property and that might occur before six months has expired.

 

You would then have a right of action against your landlord for compensation and you would need to take legal advice from a solicitor, Law Centre or CAB to establish your rights.

  • Katrina Robinson MBE | Chair
    Katrina is the Chair of the Tenancy Fraud Forum and one of its founding members. She is a solicitor who specialises in Housing Management law with a particular emphasis on tenancy fraud. In 2017 she was awarded an MBE for Services to Social Housing. After many years working in-house for housing associations where she also managed Fraud Investigators, she is now an Associate at Capsticks Solicitors. She is absolutely committed to using all the relevant legislation to take the toughest action against fraudsters and will pursue the enforcement of Unlawful Profit Orders across the globe.
  • Stephanie Toghill | Vice Chair
    Stephanie is currently Vice Chair of the Tenancy Fraud Forum and was one of its founding members. She also sits on the Executive Board for the London Boroughs’ Fraud Investigators’ Group and heads up the Housing Investigations Team for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Stephanie has over 15 years' experience in addressing tenancy fraud and is renowned as being a specialist in her field. During that time, not only has she provided assistance to over 150 housing associations on best practice in tackling tenancy fraud, but has also provided training, wrote several guidance documents and also advised on the creation of the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act.
  • Alan Bryce | Committee Member
    Alan is a founding member of the Tenancy Fraud Forum. He was an Executive Committee until 2016 and rejoined in December 2020. Through his former roles as Head of Counter Fraud and Cybercrime at the Charity Commission, Head of Counter Fraud at the Audit Commission and Chair of The European Institute for Tackling Corruption and Fraud, Alan has developed a broad knowledge of countering fraud and was responsible for first bringing the level of tenancy fraud to wider national prominence. Alan’s MSc dissertation on The Nature and Scale of Social Housing Fraud, the first academic study on tenancy fraud in the UK, remains extant as the basis for the sector's understanding of the scale of such fraud.
  • Debbie Dansey | Committee Member
    Debbie is both a founder and current Executive Committee Member of the Tenancy Fraud Forum. She is also a founder and current member of, the Kent Tenancy Fraud Forum regional group. Debbie is an accomplished counter fraud manager and investigator with over 30 year’s experience. She currently works for Ashford Borough Council in Kent, delivering a range of professional services which includes fraud prevention and detection, and investigative services. A personal aim of Debbie’s is to foster cooperation and liaison between investigators from all disciplines, to promote the prevention and detection of all fraud and financial irregularity in Local Authorities.
  • Rob Ducker | Committee Member
    Rob joined the Tenancy Fraud Forum as an Executive Committee Member in 2016. In conjunction with this, he is also Chairs the Thames Valley regional tenancy fraud group, which he has done since January 2016. Following 25 years service with Thames Valley Police, he joined Oxford City Council as a Senior Investigation Officer in January 2016, where he currently manages a team of investigators and intelligence officers dealing with a wide range of reactive and proactive investigations including into tenancy fraud.
  • Tade Olalekan | Committee Member
    Tade became a member of the Tenancy Fraud Forum Executive Committee in 2017. She also Chair’s the Hampshire Tenancy Fraud Forum regional group. Although she has worked in social housing for over 20 years, Tade has spent the last 17 years with Abri. For the last 4 years, she has been Abri’s lead for Tenancy Fraud, promoting tenancy fraud awareness within the organisation. Raising awareness of, and investigating tenancy fraud, is important to Tade, as she wishes to ensure that those in need have access to homes which otherwise would be denied through fraudulent use.
  • Avril Drummond | Committee Member
    Avril has been an Executive Committee Member of the Tenancy Fraud Forum since 2017. A very experienced and knowledgeable investigator who is passionate about stopping people exploiting the system and committing fraud, she is currently a Senior Corporate Fraud Investigator for Buckinghamshire Council. Avril has worked across various Boroughs in London, including Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Camden, Islington and Hounslow. Avril has worked in housing for local government and housing associations for over 20 years, where alongside pursuing civil and criminal cases, she has also provided guidance, established procedure and practice, and conducted tenancy fraud awareness training.
  • Nicola Evans | Committee Member
    Nicola has been a member of the Tenancy Fraud Forum Executive Committee since November 2018. An accomplished counter fraud investigator and manager, with two decades of experience dealing with tenancy fraud for Local Authorities and Housing Associations, she currently works for the L&Q Group as their Tenancy Fraud Manager. Nicola is a real advocate of raising fraud awareness and considers it a privilege to be able to support the social housing sector in combating fraud in all its guises, both through her current role and membership of the TFF board.
  • Andrew Jefferies | Committee Member
    Andrew has over 20 years’ experience within the fraud sector and has been a member of the Tenancy Fraud Forum Executive Committee since April 2020. For the last 8 years Andrew has been at Peabody Housing Association, where he is currently the Tenancy Fraud Manager. As well as managing a team of investigators’, he ensures that all available action is taken against fraudsters and has works closely with local authority partners to bring criminal cases and recoup illegal profits made by fraudsters. Andrew has transformed Peabody’s approach to tackling tenancy fraud, resulting in the recovery of over 700 properties during his tenure.
  • Jessie Napier | Committee Member
    Jessie recently joined the TFF Executive Committee on 4 February 2023, but has worked in housing fraud for 16 years as an investigator and manager. She has recently moved from Camden and is now the Housing Investigation Manager at RBKC. She is dedicated to tackling tenancy fraud, has a vast knowledge of housing law and is very passionate about all things housing fraud related. She has dealt with many criminal and civil cases and is currently doing work with Air B&B to enable better information sharing on sub-let properties.
  • Dillon Darbar | Committee Member
    Dillon has over 16 years’ experience within the fraud sector including Local and Central Government, and has been a member of the Tenancy Fraud Forum Executive Committee since March 2022. For the last 3.5 years, Dillon has been at Network Homes Ltd, where he is currently the Counter Fraud Manager. Covering all aspects of fraud against the business including tenancy fraud, he ensures that all available action is taken against fraudsters so that properties are recovered successfully for those in genuine need. Dillon has played a key part in implementing Network’s Tenancy Fraud Strategy by taking a proactive approach to tackling tenancy fraud recovering 60 properties and obtaining £50,000 in Unlawful Profit Orders since joining the business.
  • Amanda Morait | Committee Member
    Amanda has been in affordable housing for over 20 years working in both Local Authorities and Housing Associations. She previously joined the Committee when she was the tenancy fraud lead for Radian, recovering 23 properties that were being used illegally and by raising the profile of tenancy fraud within the organisation and working with partners on data matching. She recently rejoined the Committee and is now the tenancy fraud lead for Moat Housing and recently successfully secured Moats first Unlawful Profit Order of nearly £12,000.
  • David Hexter | Committee Member
    David has as been a member of the Tenancy Fraud Forum Executive Committee since March 2022. He has worked in the public sector for the past 30 years, initially working as a benefit assessor, from 1992 to date, leading a team of investigators with responsibility for investigating frauds committed against or within the local authority, including tenancy fraud. An Accredited Counter Fraud Specialist / Manager with a wealth of experience conducting investigations and delivering investigating officer, and fraud awareness training. David is a also a member of the Wales Fraud Forum Strategic Board.
  • Paula Craig | Committee Member
    After 8 years working in various operational and strategic roles in Renfrewshire Council’s Housing Services, Paula took up a role in the Counter Fraud team specialising in tenancy fraud. A recent inclusion to the TFF Executive Committee, Paula is working alongside the Scottish Local Authorities Investigators Group to raise awareness of the impact tenancy fraud has on social housing providers in Scotland and to advocate for legislative changes to protect social housing stock across Scotland.
  • Northern Ireland Housing Executive | Committee Member
    The Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) is the largest social housing provider in Northern Ireland responsible for approximately 85,000 properties. The NIHE is responsible for the Housing Selection Scheme throughout Northern Ireland assessing all housing and homeless applications. The NIHE administers housing benefit and rates relief throughout Northern Ireland to all claimants that are not in receipt of universal credit, as well as many other housing related functions. Our NIHE TFF Executive Committee member joined the committee in March 2022 bringing with them over 20 year’s experience in the NIHE. Throughout their career, they have worked in various departments providing them with a wealth of experience and knowledge within the housing sector. For the last 7 years, they have developed and managed the Tenancy Fraud Investigation Unit within the organisation. They are a CIPFA Accredited Counter Fraud Specialist and have been trained in Advanced Investigative Practices.
  • Rajvinder Vine | Committee Member
    Coming Soon.
  • Iain Hewitt | Administrative Support
    Iain has over 35 years’ experience in criminal, civil and regulatory investigations and investigations management, both within the private and public sectors, domestically and internationally. His last role prior to retirement in February 2021 was as the Deputy Head of Investigations and Enforcement at the Charity Commission. However, he also spent 20 years as a policeman in the RAF, worked for the NHS as a Counter Fraud Specialist and also had a brief stint at the Audit Commission. ​ Iain provides various ad hoc services to the TFF Executive Committee which include managing the TFFs social media and website.

Unlawful Eviction

It is a criminal offence to evict somebody from residential accommodation without a court order or to harass them into leaving.  Bear in mind this does not apply to ‘squatters’ who have broken into a property.

 

Unfortunately, our very hard working police officers are not always up to date on the relevant legislation and sometimes think that it’s a civil not a criminal matter.  Remember that if you or your possessions are being threatened, then you must dial 999 if you are in danger. If you do need to talk to the Police, then tell them it is a criminal offence pursuant to the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

 

To harass someone into leaving includes threats of violence, cutting off utilities, changing the locks, removing possessions, attending the property with groups of relatives or friends, smashing windows and such like.

 

Many of our members have reported awful stories of a social tenant illegally evicting their sub-tenants when the fraud has come to the attention of the social landlord.   If you are in this position, then you must tell the police that you are being unlawfully evicted or harassed into leaving and seek legal advice to either move back into the property, obtain your possessions and seek compensation.

 

Some Councils have a Tenancy Relations Officer or Homelessness Prevention Officer who can also assist you with advice regarding unlawful eviction.  If the Council in your area doesn’t have such a service then call Shelter, their helpline is open every day of the year from 8am to 8pm week days and 9am to 5pm weekends.  Shelter is a charity that campaigns and gives advice and assistance regarding housing.

 

Also, check your credit card providers, car and home insurance policies, vehicle breakdown cover and work related benefits; sometimes these will give free legal assistance even if it’s not related to the service they provide, eg, the AA might advise on tenancy issues, not just vehicle related problems.

modern-social-housing-under-blue-sky-PTZ

Top Tips

Follow these top tips to help you avoid being the victim of fraud:

 

  • Google the name of the landlord to see what you can find.  If you can find absolutely nothing, then they might be using a fake name to try and hide something.  Also search the internet with any mobile number they have given you, this sometimes gives surprising results.

  • Never, ever, pay rent or a deposit in cash.  Ever!  If the landlord says they want that, then you need to walk away.  Insist on a tenancy agreement upon paying a deposit (by cheque or bank transfer).  You should have sight of it before you even pass over any money.

  • If it’s a flat, try and talk to the neighbours to see if they know if it’s a social housing property or not.  If it’s on an estate, find out who the landlord is from looking at the signage around.  Of course the person wishing to let it might have purchased the property, but it’s always best to be sure, so call the social landlord and ask them.

  • Create an account with the Land Registry https://landregistry-deeds.co.uk/ The Land Registry is the government owned body that holds the details of all the property owners in the country.  You will have to pay to see the details, but it’s cheap compared to losing thousands of pounds in a deposit and rent in advance.

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