Housing fraudsters cost council nearly £750k and are ‘cheating’ homeless people

Redbridge Council's cabinet member for housing Muhammed Javed using new passport scanners

Redbridge Council's cabinet member for housing Muhammed Javed using new passport scanners - Credit: Archant

Housing applicants will have their passports scanned in a crack down on fraud which has cost the council almost £750,000.

Redbridge Council has installed three portable scanners and two fixed ones, which will be in the Housing Advice Centre in Clements Road, Ilford, and Orchard Housing Office in Broadmead Road, Woodford Green.

The new scanners will help prevent council homes being claimed fraudulently, identify fraudulent homelessness applications and tackle the illegal sub-letting of council homes.

Cllr Muhammed Javed, cabinet member for housing, said: “With the shortage of much needed housing in the borough, these scanners will help us to make sure that council housing, services and benefits are going to the genuine people that need them.

“Individuals that con the borough out of resources are cheating the people who have no choice but to rely on council services.”

The scanners are part of an effort to target people working while claiming housing benefit, not declaring savings, failing to disclose marital status or saying you are separated and actually living with a partner.

The scanners are costing £25,250 for three years, funded by the Department for Local Government and Communities (DCLG) to help prevent fraud.

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The estimated costs of tenancy fraud – £738,000 – is based on the cost per property of £18,000 for providing temporary accommodation for a homeless person who could have lived in the home.

Staff have received specialist training from the Met Police on how to manually detect forged passports and driving licences.

The authority also vowed to evict and prosecute anyone found living in a council home to which they are not entitled.

Since 2011, the council has ended two nightly lets, stopped five applications for housing and recovered two private sector leased properties, estimated to have cost the authority £72,000.

Seven fraudulent right to buy applications have been stopped, which would have received a £448,900 discount, with four of the properties returned to the council.

The council has also helped a registered provider recover a sublet property which would have cost the council £18,000 and was subsequently let to a homeless person.

While there have been no prosecutions for sub-letting, 40 properties have been recovered.

“My advice is ‘don’t take what is not rightfully yours’,” added Cllr Javed.

He also urged people to report suspected fraud anonymously on 0800 633 5267 or by emailing whistleblow@redbridge.gov.uk.

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