CLG restricts plans to criminalise subletting
Plans to criminalise subletting are to be limited to situations where the tenant is no longer living in the property or has given up possession.
The government had considered introducing a broader offence of tenancy fraud, but has decided to restrict its plans ‘to avoid creating new criminal offences when existing criminal sanctions may already be available’.
The proposals are set out in a document summarising responses to a Communities and Local Government department consultation on tackling tenancy fraud, and outlining its next steps.
The department confirms it will be backing a private members bill brought forward by Conservative MP Richard Harrington, which had its second reading in the House of Commons today.
This would create a criminal offence of unauthorised subletting, and give local authorities the power to prosecute individuals, who could face a fine or two years in prison. At present subletting is a civil offence, punishable with eviction. Housing associations would not be able to bring cases, although local authorities could do so on their behalf.
The bill would also allow courts to issue an ‘unlawful profit order’ requiring the proceeds of subletting to be paid to the landlord.
Around 90 per cent of respondents to the consultation backed moves to make subletting social housing a criminal offence. A similar proportion of the 188 respondents also backed moves to require utility companies and other bodies to share information that could help to detect subletting.
Respondents suggested that credit reference agencies, schools, television licensing and the Department for Work and Pensions should also come under the scheme.
The CLG has said it will take steps to force utilities and finance companies to share data with landlords.
In the consultation response document it says ministers think the creation of a ‘mandatory gateway’ which would require certain bodies to provide information about tenants is a ‘key element’ in detecting and prosecuting illegal sub-letting.