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The government has begun a crackdown on thousands of cheats who have fraudulently acquired or sublet their council and housing association homes. Over 140 councils have signed up to this pledge and will benefit from a share of £4m to set up their own anti-fraud initiatives.
It is thought up to 50,000 homes in England are sublet by people who live elsewhere and earn thousands of pounds by charging higher rental rates for the properties. John Healey, Housing minister, recently said "We can't allow cheats to hang onto the tenancies of council houses they don't need and don't live in. I want people to feel the system for housing families who need homes is fairer."
Mr Healey will hand over information of up to 8,000 potential cheats based on the Audit Commission results that compared tenancy records against those held by councils, housing associations and other public bodies.
Other incentives are rewards of £500 to anyone who helps trap a cheat. Half of all homes recovered from cheats are as a result of tip-offs from neighbours.Those who are caught will lose their home and may lose the right to rent a social housing property in the future.
Research by the Audit Commission shows the number of homes unlawfully acquired or sublet could be anything from one in 100 to one in 20 in inner-city areas, and as many as 50,000 across the country.