Housing associations in Northern Ireland have been stepping up measures to prevent and detect social housing tenancy fraud.
Social housing is an important public resource. It has the ability to significantly improve the lives of those who are vulnerable, homeless or in severe housing need. The demand for social housing in Northern Ireland is greater than the supply and it is therefore important that it is allocated to those who need it most.
A Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) report published in 2013 suggested there were significant numbers of social housing properties being fraudulently misused. This misuse reduces the supply of affordable housing that is available to those who need it most.
The NIAO report defines social housing tenancy fraud as “the use of social housing by someone who is not entitled to it.” Fraud may occur at any stage during a tenancy and can take the following forms:
- Obtaining a home by false representation;
- Abandoning a property without informing the landlord;
- Unauthorised subletting;
- Fraudulently succeeding a tenancy;
- Unlawfully assigning a tenancy to someone else;
- Right to buy fraud.
NIFHA has been supporting its members to adopt a collaborative approach to tackle tenancy fraud. In November 2015 each housing association designated a Fraud Liaison Officer to share best practice and ensure colleagues are kept up to date with relevant tenancy fraud policies and procedures.
In December 2015 Fraud Liaison Officers formed a Tenancy Fraud Forum to ensure a common approach is adopted in the prevention and detection of tenancy fraud across housing associations in Northern Ireland.
NIFHA continues to support its members through regular liaison with the Department for Social Development and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. 2016 will see the launch of a publicity campaign to raise the awareness of tenancy fraud. It is anticipated that this campaign will deter potential housing cheats and encourage those with suspicions to come forward and report their concerns.
Social housing has the ability to greatly improve the lives of families and the most vulnerable people in our society. NIFHA and its members expect that this collaborative approach to tackling tenancy fraud will deter housing cheats and ensure valuable housing spaces are allocated to those in greatest need.
To view the NIAO report click here