Threat of social housing tenancy fraud in the UK could be three times higher than previously thought, new research has warned.
The research by data company Experian Public Sector reveals that the fraudulent occupancy of social housing such as subletting could exist in at least 157,000 properties or around 3.1% of all social rented housing. This is three times the number estimated by the Audit Commission in 2009.
The figures are based on an initial analysis of 125,000 social housing tenancies in ten UK local authorities and housing associations in rural and urban areas.
Experian said it hoped to analyse data in more areas over the coming months.
Researchers matched data from a variety of sources to identify tenants living at other addresses.
Experian believes that £2bn a year could be saved if these properties were made available to those in temporary accommodation.
Nick Mothershaw, Experian’s director of fraud & identity, said: “Our initial research suggests that the level of social housing tenancy fraud in Britain could be much higher than previously estimated.
“It also demonstrates how more effective data matching can quickly provide a reliable indication of what could be illegal occupancy and subletting.
“This means investigators can prioritise and deal swiftly with fraudulent cases. Reducing social housing tenancy fraud will significantly reduce the cost of temporary accommodation which we estimate at over £2 billion a year.”
Gwyneth Taylor, policy director at the National Federation of Arms Length Management Organisations, who manage council housing said illegal sub-letting was hard to track.
“ALMO’s do a lot of work to try and estimate the level of illegal sub-letting, It’s quite difficult if people pay their rent. We don’t come knocking on peoples doors asking for rent any more,” she said.