Housing association tenants in South Lakeland have been warned that sub-letting their properties to others is illegal and could land them in court.
The warning comes after South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) prosecuted a man for sub-letting a South Lakes Housing property for which he held an assured tenancy – the first prosecution of this kind in the district under legislation which came into force in 2013.
Barrow Magistrates’ Court was told on Monday that Edwin William Peacock was the tenant of an SLH property in Orrest Drive, Windermere, but he lived in a house in Oxenholme.
Suspicions were raised when Peacock, 53, of Bleaswood Road, Oxenholme, applied to purchase the SLH property under the Right to Buy scheme. Investigations found that Peacock had a mortgage on his residence in Oxenholme, that he lived there and that utility bills for the SLH property were in the name of another person.
Peacock faced one charge of sub-letting the Windermere property contrary to the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013.
He was fined £466 and ordered to pay £1,140 costs and a £46 victim surcharge.
Katie Booth, SLDC’s corporate anti-fraud officer, said: “Sub-letting in this way deprives social housing to deserving residents and costs South Lakeland District Council money in providing Bed and Breakfast accommodation to unhoused tenants. There is currently a 12-year waiting list for properties of this type in Windermere and offences like this increases waiting time for prospective tenants. People who could otherwise be housed lose out because of fraudsters sub-letting.
“If allegations or evidence of such behaviour comes to light we will investigate and prosecute. We hope this sentence will send out a warning that this type of behaviour is not acceptable and could lead to serious consequences for the perpetrators.”
Alison Kinnon, director of customers & communities at South Lakes Housing, said: “There are almost 3,000 people in South Lakeland who need an affordable home, so it is absolutely right that we tackle those who fraudulently abuse this much-needed asset. As this case has proved, people who think that they are getting away with it get found out in the end. We are working closely with South Lakeland District Council to investigate other people who are suspected of committing tenancy fraud.”