A bid to encourage residents illegally subletting social housing in Tower Hamlets to shop their landlords has been hailed a success after eight properties were seized by the council.
The amnesty, which ran from January 18 to March 6, was set up to tackle illegal subletting and tenancy fraud, which cost the council an estimated £13million per year.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said: “At a time when council housing is in short supply, it is unfair that a minority of people are trying to cheat the system.
“I am grateful to everyone who helped us identify illegal sublets in Tower Hamlets. We are committed to stamping out fraud and ensuring housing goes to those who abide by the rules.”
The council said they have already seized eight illegally sublet properties, after receiving “dozens of solid leads.”
The amnesty allowed residents who were illegally subletting social housing to return their keys to the council, without fear of prosecution.
Those tenants were urged to drop their keys off anonymously, whilst residents with any information on illegal sublets or tenancy fraud were encouraged to report this to the council.
The initiative also helped raise awareness of the costs of tenancy fraud. Figures from the Office for National Statistics estimate just one illegal sublet can cost the council £18,000 per year.
Amy Sictorness, 22, from Bethnal Green, recently secured a two-bedroom property as a result of the council tackling tenancy fraud.
Amy was given a property in November 2015, after 200 unsuccessful bids starting in 2012. She lives with her five-month-old daughter, Lucia.
She told East London Lines: “A home is so important. My daughter now has the space to grow and develop and reach her full potential. It is shocking that people use social housing to make money. It means that people like me wait longer than we should for a home.”
Tenancy fraud is a criminal offence. Prosecution by the council can incur a prison sentence, a criminal record or a fine for £5000.
The mayor said he was determined to bring back social housing for those who need it most and said: “From March 7, we will not hesitate to use the full force of our powers to pursue people making a quick buck at the expense of those who desperately need a permanent home.”