'They say see you in court, but we will never give up' -council celebrates tenancy fraud recognition (From Harrow Times)
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Harrow Borough Council celebrates recognition for tenancy fraud work from Audit Commission
Harrow Borough Council is celebrating after being recognised for its work in prosecuting those involved in tenancy fraud.
Harrow Council was highlighted for its work when the Audit Commission released its National Fraud Initiative 2011/12.
Through its partnership with the Corporate Anti-Fraud Team and the Housing Management Team the council has uncovered nine cases of tenancy fraud so far this financial year.
Harrow Council is also currently investigating a further 26 cases.
Harrow Council’s housing manager, Karen O’Connell, said: “People who commit housing tenancy fraud have a real ‘catch me if you can’ attitude.
“They think it is too hard for councils to prove or councils don’t have the time or capability of unearthing their fraud. That is simply not the case.
“They tell us ‘see you in court’. They know it’s illegal but they’re prepared to fight tooth and nail, hoping we’ll give up. But we never will.
“We are leading the way in Harrow but the cases we have successfully prosecuted are the tip of the iceberg.”
In one case, following an unannounced tenancy audit, the Council’s Housing Fraud investigator discovered a council tenant was actually living in a house she had bought in Luton, while allowing a friend and the family to occupy the council property.
When challenged, she initially claimed to be living at the property, but when faced with overwhelming financial evidence which proved she lived in Luton, she admitted to moving there in 2005 having previously lived in her council property since 1998.
When Harrow Council got the keys back, they were able to give them to Miranda French.
Ms French and her daughter had been on the waiting list for a council house for seven years.
Ms French said: “Here’s hoping they don’t get away with it much longer because there are people waiting in tiny cramped properties.
“Knowing people with two or three-bed homes are subletting them, I find it very unfair.”
She added: “I have a home, I feel settled. It’s wonderful being able to write my address and think, ‘this is it, and its permanent’.
“I can look for jobs, go to college. I can breathe now and carry on with living. I feel for the past seven years life has been on hold.”