Amnesty before fraud campaign

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People who made a false housing application, are subletting their council house illegally or have abandoned it in Central Bedfordshire, will have a chance to hand in the keys, no questions asked, as part of a key amnesty to help free up homes for those in genuine need.

Central Bedfordshire Council is holding the amnesty to 9 November 2016 before it begins a major clampdown on tenancy fraud using data matching technology to help identify culprits.

A false housing application is where information has not been correctly declared on the application form, such as pretending to have split from a partner or not declaring your true address history.

Illegal subletting is where a council tenant allows another to live in their council house whilst they live elsewhere, and abandonment is where the house has been left empty.

Council tenants may be prosecuted, receive a criminal record and could be fined up to £50k or be sent to prison.

There are around 5,000 council owned homes in Central Bedfordshire, mainly in the south of the area.

Cllr Richard Wenham, said: “People committing tenancy fraud are depriving another family of a permanent place to stay. We are giving those committing these crimes a month to hand in keys with no questions asked. After that we will start our clampdown on this unfair practice which can deprive genuine families and individuals of a permanent place to stay.”

Anyone who hands in their keys to end their tenancy during the amnesty will not have legal action taken against them.

Anyone who made a false housing application, is not living in their council house or is illegally subletting it can hand back their keys at Reception in the council offices at Watling House, Dunstable or Priory House, Chicksands.

They, and residents wishing to report somebody who may be illegally subletting or is not living in their council house, can call the council’s confidential hotline on 0300 300 4154. There is a dedicated webpage at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/key-amnesty. You can also email benefitfraud@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk.

You do not have to give your name and you are assured of complete confidentiality at all times.