Over 50 suspected tenancy fraud probes

Social housing
Social housing

Almost 60 cases of suspected tenancy fraud have been recorded by the Housing Executive in Derry and Strabane in just four months, the ‘Journal’ can today reveal.

A total of 57 tenancies have been placed under investigation from the start of April to the end of July this year, but just under half of the cases have now closed, with no fraud detected.

The figures were obtained after the Housing Executive’s new Acting Chief Executive Clark Bailie called on local people to pass on information about suspected ‘dole drop’ fraudsters as he delivered the new Housing Investment Plan for Derry & Strabane before the local council this week.

A spokesperson for the Housing Executive yesterday told the ‘Journal’ that the organisation was “determined in its efforts to eliminate tenancy fraud and will take action where it is required”.

She elaborated: “Tenancy fraud is the use of social housing by someone who is not entitled to it or does not need it.

“The Northern Ireland Audit Office has identified that this can take several forms including giving false information on a housing or right to buy application; abandonment or non-occupation of the property; subletting to someone who is not entitled to live there; false succession or unlawful assignment of a tenancy.

“Suspicions of tenancy fraud can come from a range of sources including our staff, contractors, neighbours and anonymous tip offs.”

With regard to the 57 cases of suspected tenancy fraud in the Derry and Strabane area, she said: “The majority of these cases relate to abandonment or non-occupation of the home (98% of all suspected frauds). Investigations are still ongoing in 16 of these cases. Investigations in the remaining 41 cases have resulted in 28 cases being closed with no fraud detected.

“13 properties were recovered for reallocation to applicants on the waiting list. It should be noted that all 13 properties recovered were as a result of abandonment/non-occupation. In such circumstances it is difficult to determine if the property was being fraudulently occupied prior to being abandoned/non-occupied and for this reason these cases are recorded as suspected fraud.”

Mr Bailie said earlier this week that it was “not right and not fair” that some people were cheating the system while others were desperately waiting on accommodation.

“We have recently set up a Tenancy Fraud Unit to make sure a precious resource like social housing tenancy is given to somebody who needs it,” he said.