Allocation conviction under section 171 of the Housing Act 1996

On 12 February 2018 South Oxfordshire District Council reported on a successful prosecution of a tenant under section 171 of the Housing Act 1996:

171.— False statements and withholding information.

(1) A person commits an offence if, in connection with the exercise by a local housing authority of their functions under this Part—

(a) he knowingly or recklessly makes a statement which is false in a material particular, or

(b) he knowingly withholds information which the authority have reasonably required him to give in connection with the exercise of those functions.

(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.

The tenant had failed to disclose, when applying to go on the Council’s housing register, that she in fact owned a property (which she was letting out).  She had been living in the allocated property for a number of years by the time of the conviction, and the authority had been alerted to the situation by means of an anonymous tip-off.

This was the first conviction for housing fraud by the Council and appears to have relied on the effective follow-on investigative work of not only themselves and the landlord (SOHA Housing), but also Oxford City Council’s Investigation Team.

As well as the £1530 financial orders handed out to the tenant by the Magistrates’ Court in Oxford the tenant apparently, and perhaps unsurprisingly, now faces possession proceedings, presumably under Ground 17 of Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988:

Ground 17

The tenant is the person, or one of the persons, to whom the tenancy was granted and the landlord was induced to grant the tenancy by a false statement made knowingly or recklessly by—

(a) the tenant, or

(b) a person acting at the tenant’s instigation.

 

where the real issue will no doubt be not, following the conviction, be whether Ground 5 is satisfied but rather whether it is reasonable in all the circumstances to make a possession order.
The usual authorities of Shrewsbury & Atcham BC v Evans (1997) 30 HLR 123, CA and Lewisham LBC v Akinsola and Adeyemi (2000) 32 HLR 414, CA will no doubt be considered by the court, and though a possession order is by nature of the ground being discretionary no means guaranteed – see for example Southwark LBC v Erekin [2003] EWHC 1765 – it is also worth noting the recent remarks of Mr Justice Turner in Poplar Housing & Regeneration Community Association Ltd v Begum [2017] EWHC 2040 (QB); [2017] HLR 42 (a sub-letting of part/only or principal home/drug activity possession case):
“40…I would stress that it is not compassionate to allow profiteering fraudsters indefinitely to continue to occupy premises and thereby exclude from such accommodation more needy and deserving families.”

One thought on “Allocation conviction under section 171 of the Housing Act 1996”

  1. Many thanks, Andy for this detailed information. I am currently researching whether there’s a similar rule in relation to Tribunal hearings. I represented a client as a FRU rep last week in his ESA Appeal and it turned out during the questions from the judge that the list of medications which he had mentioned in conference was different from what he had actually been prescribed. It turned out his medication had been changed just this January and he was taking far less then he had confirmed in conference.

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