Illegal subletting of council and social housing costs the public money, and stops people in genuine housing need from finding homes.
Northumberland County Council is launching a campaign to ask the public to report, confidentially, any property that they think may be being sublet illegally.
The main element of the campaign will be radio advertising in the area – which has been possible due to Government funding which was allocated to tackle the issue.
Unlawful subletting means that a customer has signed a tenancy agreement for a property but then doesn’t live there. Instead they charge someone else to live in the property without their landlord’s permission and earn money from the rent.
In 2009, the Audit Commission considered that at least 50,000 socially rented homes could be unlawfully sub-let. More recent work suggests that the figure could be even higher at up to three times the previous estimate.
With over 1.8 million households on waiting lists for social housing nationally, and 11,000 in Northumberland, unlawful subletting deprives the most vulnerable and needy people on housing waiting lists of a home.
The council and other social landlords are looking for anyone who is unlawfully letting the whole property to a single household or multiple sublets within one property. It does not include taking in a lodger or subletting with the landlords consent.
The council is working in partnership with its own arms-length housing management company Homes for Northumberland, as well as other social landlords in Northumberland – Bernicia, Isos Housing and Berwick Borough Housing.
Councillor Tom Brechany, executive member responsible for housing at Northumberland County Council said: “Unlawful subletting deprives people on the waiting list and in genuine housing need from accessing affordable homes, which can mean that they have to remain in unsuitable housing for longer.
“There is also a cost to the public purse, and people who are doing this are making money from housing that is intended to meet social needs.”
Anyone who suspects that a council or social home in Northumberland may be being sublet illegally should call Northumberland County Council on 0845 600 6400, where they will receive advice on how it should be reported. You can also find out more at http://www.northumberland.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=15156