Sometimes I wonder where some newspapers would be if they didn’t have a regular flow of stories about the mindboggling cost of housing in Kensington and Chelsea. You know the sort of thing – a rich and famous person buys a huge house costing the GDP of a medium-sized country. Or perhaps you will recall stories about tiny garages that sell for an amount of money that would supposedly buy a whole street in a northern city.
It’s all par for the course and the cost of buying a home, or indeed renting, in the Royal Borough can be enormous. But something that can be forgotten in this house price frenzy is that about a quarter of households in the borough live in social housing. That is homes managed by the Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation(KCTMO) or housing associations. The rents for these homes are set at affordable levels and mean that we have a good mix of people.
Social housing is an important resource and one that must be protected and used properly. Unfortunately, some people seem to think that it’s a way to make a fast buck. I’m talking here about people who manage to secure this precious social housing, in a very desirable part of London, and then sublet it at the local market rent which is much, much higher than social rent.
In the last couple of weeks a woman was given a nine month suspended sentence after she pleaded guilty to subletting a Council property on Old Brompton Road. Suspicions that all was not right were aroused when officers from the KCTMO visited the property. They reported their concerns to the Council’s Fraud Team and they decided to take a close look themselves. When our fraud officers visited the property they found another family living there. So we had a situation where, between July 2013 and March 2015, a woman was paying £12,849 in rent to the Council while collecting £29,295 in rent from the people to whom she was subletting. Easy money for her, but taken from the public purse and completely illegal. She now has a criminal record and has relinquished the keys to the Old Brompton Street property. According to the judge it was only her previous good character and early guilty plea that kept her out of prison.
We’re not quite finished with our former tenant just yet though and will look to recover money from her by a Proceeds of Crime Confiscation hearing.
Subletting deprives people who genuinely need social housing of a home and we are always on the lookout for any sign that a property is being misused. We often act on information received by neighbours, members of the public or other statutory authorities.
You can help be our eyes and ears. If you have any reason to believe that social housing is being abused, please contact our Fraud Team – the officers will take it from there. You can get in touch by calling 020 7361 2777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org