COUNCIL tenants in Warwick district face losing their home if they illegally rent it out.
The stark warning follows the prosecution of former tenant Mark Skinner after he sublet his Princes Street property in Leamington when he moved out in 2014 – rather than hand the keys back to the council as he should have done.
Skinner, now of Upper Blakeridge Lane, Batley, was fined £120, plus a victim surcharge of £30, and court costs of £135, after the 36-year-old pleaded guilty to illegally subletting the property when he appeared before magistrates in Leamington.
The conviction, believed to be the first of its kind in Warwickshire since the introduction of the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013, was made following a six month investigation by the council’s fraud team.
Had Skinner’s tenant not handed back the keys voluntarily he would have been evicted.
District housing spokesman Coun Peter Phillips said: “The council has an agreed priority allocation scheme which aims to provide homes to those with the greatest need.
“I very much hope that this conviction sends a stark warning that illegally subletting or any other act of fraud against the council and our residents will not be tolerated.”
The council currently owns around 5,400 properties, and there are around 2,500 people currently on the waiting list for a home.
Council chiefs announced earlier this year they planned to start building council homes once again in Warwick district in a bid to reduce the waiting list.
With property prices and rents both rising rapidly in the district, people are increasingly struggling to put a roof over their heads. The average price of a home in the district now costs over £338,000, with the ratio of house prices to average income now nine to one.
The increasing problem of the illegal subletting of local authority homes nationally has been highlighted by BBC documentary series Council House Crackdown, which tracks down tenancy cheats and reclaims homes.
With over 2million people on waiting lists in the UK, illegal subletting is not a victimless crime.
Anyone who suspects a council property is being illegally sub let can call Warwick district’s fraud team on 01926 456820.