A London council has won a breakthrough case against unlawful council tenant subletting,
Following a sentencing hearing in Westminster Magistrates Court today, Westminster Council has won its first case over unlawful subletting of a council property under the Fraud Act 2006.
Mr Herminio Nascimento, 42, a former Council tenant of a two bedroom property on the Westbourne Park Estate, has been sentenced to 16 weeks in prison for subletting a council house property whilst living with his partner in a property they jointly own in Crawley, Sussex.
The council has been awarded £7,100 in legal costs for the case.
It is estimated that 160,000 tenants unlawfully sub-let their homes at a cost of £5bn a year to the taxpayer.
Westminster is calling upon the Government to incentivise and not penalise local authorities for tackling the issue by granting them greater powers to prevent ongoing exploitation of the system.
Cllr Lindsay Hall, Chairman of Westminster Council’s Housing Benefit Fraud Group, said:
“We will not stand for those who think they can exploit and cheat a vital support system that is in place to protect and house our most vulnerable residents.
“Currently, Westminster has over 1,000 families waiting to be moved to a larger property and meanwhile a minority of tenants think they can get away with earning a fast buck by renting out much needed homes.
“This is just a small victory for the council but much more needs to be done to allow local authorities to take action against what should be a criminal offence.”
Speaking at the sentencing today, District Judge Snow said;
“Council housing in the UK is under great pressure and this is particularly true for housing in central London. It is important that councils, Westminster in particular, can allocate property where most needed.
“You sublet your council property for profit. When confronted, you lied about it and you lied, you lied and you lied.
“I am duty bound to deter both you and anyone else tempted to sublet council property.”