In a legal first for West Norfolk, the borough council has used new powers to prosecute a housing association tenant for sub-letting.
Leo Poskus, 61, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to dishonestly sub-letting his home in Highgate, Lynn, which is an offence under the the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013.
His tenancy agreement expressly prohibited him from sub-letting his property without permission from his landlord Circle Housing Wherry.
He not only sub-let the property but also made a profit from this activity by charging his tenant nearly twice the rent he was paying to Circle.
Poskus was given a two-year conditional discharge and an unlawful profits order was made in the amount of £3,687.64 at King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court.
The council’s costs of £1,363.70 were also awarded along with a victim surcharge of £15, bringing the total owed to £5,066.34.
Speaking after the hearing, Adrian Lawrence, cabinet member for housing and community, said: “Tenancy fraud is a matter we take very seriously. Social housing is in high demand and there are considerable waiting lists.
“When people move out of a social housing property, they should inform their landlord so that the property can be made available to someone in need on the housing register.
“In this instance, the property was sub-let to a private tenant – potentially preventing someone on the housing register from being housed and providing Mr Poskus with a profit made at someone else’s expense.
“Local councils have been granted new powers which enable us to bring forward criminal prosecutions on behalf of registered social landlords, helping them to crack down on this type of crime.
“I am delighted with this outcome which will see the unlawful profits being returned to Circle Housing Wherry and sends a very strong message to tenants about respecting the terms of their tenancy agreement.”
Sue Stavers, Head of Housing Services at Circle Housing Wherry, thanked the Borough Council for bringing this case to the courts on their behalf, saying: “This action clearly shows that neither social landlords nor the council will tolerate the abuse of social housing.
“This type of activity deprives families in genuine hardship of much needed affordable accommodation and we will continue to work in partnership with local councils to make sure social housing is protected for those in the greatest need.
“We ask that anyone who is aware of any similar situations to report their suspicions to their landlord in the first instance.”
Registered social landlords (RSLs) don’t have the power to bring forward criminal prosecutions under this act and can only pursue costly civil cases.
West Norfolk is urging RSLs to get in touch if they have any cases they want to be investigated for potential prosecution.