Published 19 February 2014
Ealing Council has launched a key amnesty offering tenants illegally sub-letting their council homes the chance to hand their keys back to avoid a criminal prosecution.
New laws introduced last October made sub-letting a council property a criminal act.
After the key amnesty ends on 31 March, any tenants found renting their council homes out could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to £50,000. Under the Proceeds of Crime Act they may also have to pay back profits made from sub-letting the property.
The council has set up a telephone hotline for any tenants who wish to return the keys to their property during the amnesty. Residents can also use the hotline to anonymously report anyone they suspect of tenancy fraud. The tenancy fraud hotline is 020 8825 8023.
Housing officers already carry out regular unannounced tenancy checks on council homes by knocking on people’s doors. Since July 2011, Ealing has recovered 56 properties from people breaking their tenancy agreements by sub-letting their homes. As it costs the council an average of £18,000 a year to house a family in temporary accommodation, the recovery of these properties represents a saving of more than £1million for the council.
Councillor Hitesh Tailor, cabinet member for housing, employment and skills, said: “We have more than 10,000 households on our housing waiting list who are in genuine need of a council home. Illegal sub-letting of a council property is selfish and deprives those who are entitled to a home. If we recover just one home during this key amnesty it will make a real difference to a family.”