New proposals to tackle sub-letting should include grounds for possession to bring stock back into use, says Colin Hammond, head of housing litigation at Penningtons Solicitors
Social housing tenants who commit tenancy fraud could face up to two years in jail and a £50,000 fine under housing minister Grant Shapps’ latest proposals.
Housing tenancy fraud includes unauthorised sub-letting for profit, using false information to obtain a tenancy and wrongful tenancy assignment and succession.
Whether this will apply to tenants of both councils and housing associations is unclear, but it would seem that only local authorities will be able to institute criminal proceedings using any new powers so as not to ‘raise questions around [associations’] possible reclassification from private sector to public sector bodies’.
This is an interesting comment in the light of recent case law, which has left the position in some doubt. Many advisors, in recent times, have been telling housing associations to act as if they were public sector bodies until the position is resolved, so is anything to be read into this statement?
Meanwhile, the government is looking to bring into line the statuses of council and housing association tenants who sub-let their homes, so that security of tenure will be lost for good once the whole of the property has been sub-let. This is to be welcomed.
However, as one rationale behind the initiative is to bring stock back into use for those in need, will the government also introduce a mandatory ground for possession based on tenancy fraud? Many consider this would have been an appropriate alternative or addition to current proposals, which will not guarantee repossession of any social housing. The consultation remains open until 4 April.