The recent announcement by Reigate & Banstead Borough Council of a successful sub-letting prosecution may appear to be simply yet another example of the potentially criminal nature of sub-letting in social housing, all the more so since the introduction of bespoke offences to be found in sections 1 and 2 of the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013.
However, of note in the press release by the authority was this:
“After the sub-letting period finished in 2018, and before the Council started investigating the alleged fraud, she moved back into the social housing property. Ms Mezei voluntarily gave it back to the Council in October 2021.”
This serves as a useful reminder that stopping the sub-letting activity and reverting to using the premises as originally intended does not ‘wipe’ the effect of the (here 2016-2018) sub-letting.
Not only may an offence still, as in this case, have been committed but also any civil recovery of the subject premises can proceed – if required (it wasn’t here) – on a mandatory basis in periodic tenancy cases because of the permanent loss of security of tenure brought about by sections 93(2) and 15A (not shared ownership) of the Housing Acts 1985 and 1988 respectively.
Housing fraud remains an important and fascinating area of law, and cases such as this demonstrate all the more reason for attending the primary conference in this area on April 20th 2023.