The BBC have confirmed Government proposals for tougher penalties for Council tenants who illegally sublet. The penalty could be as high as two years in prison or a £50,000 fine under a new criminal offence of tenancy fraud. It is estimated that 160,000 tenants illegally sub-let and that £5 billion a year extra is spent by the taxpayer as a result – for instance paying for temporary accomodation for those on the waiting list.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:
"Tenancy cheats are taking advantage of a vital support system for some of the most vulnerable people in our society and getting away with a slap on the wrist while our waiting lists continue to grow.
"It's time for these swindlers to pay the price. It would cost us billions of pounds to replace the huge number of unlawfully occupied social homes across the country.
"Meanwhile tenancy cheats can earn thousands of pounds letting out their property, which was given to them in good faith and which could instead be offering a stable home to a family in need."
"The proposals I've announced today would not only deliver justice to these fraudsters but will also act as a deterrent to those who think they can earn a fast buck from this precious resource.
"I want everyone to know that our country's social homes are going to those in genuine need, not providing a 'nice little earner' to someone who could afford to live elsewhere."
I have written before on how low the existing fines are – one typical example being £7,000. So even if those paying a subsidised rent and then charging a market rent are caught they still end up better off having engaged in the fraud which often they would have been able to continue for some years before being taken to court.