The Housing Executive have warned that they are now staking out homes in the Derry area after a flurry of letters from people over potential rental fraud.
The stakeout surveillance work was confirmed by the Housing Executive (HE) Area Manager West, Avril McAllister, as she gave a presentation on the situation in the city before Derry City Council’s Regional Services Committee this week.
Ms McAllister said that a steady flow of letters were now arriving- many of them anonymous- giving tip-offs about people allocated homes, but suspected of not living there or even sub-letting the property to someone else in a benefits scam.
Ms McAllister said that HE staff, upon receiving such information, begin a process of investigation.
“We stake out the house,” she said. “We check electricity usage and we also speak to the tenant.
“We are trying to encourage people to report to us.”
She said that sometimes people have genuine reasons for absence, but that in other cases the answers given are deemed ‘suspicious’, and result in further investigation.
She also urged residents who do report not to lose heart if they do not see any immediate results, as such investigations may take time to conclude.
Her comments come just weeks after it emerged that the Housing Executive have taken 11 properties off people as a result of tenancy spot checks in Derry.
The Housing Executive said the homes recouped in Derry have now been re-allocated to tenants on the housing waiting list who are deemed as being in real need.
The Housing Executive have appealed to anyone who suspects someone is a housing cheat, to let them know either online or by telephoning 03448 920 900.
Anyone caught committing fraud is likely to lose their tenancy and could also, in some cases, be disqualified from applying for social housing in the future. They could also be fined and possibly sent to prison.