Buying a property is most likely for many of us to be the biggest financial investment of our lives. Some people who will never be able to afford their own property rely on local housing associations for accommodation but there is a shortage of housing which means everlasting waiting lists.
While the lists get longer, also adding to the problem are the people who exploit the system! Standard behaviour these days!!!
When given a housing association home, it states clearly, like with any tenancy agreement that you are legally bound to inform the landlord/association of any change in circumstances and of course sub letting is forbidden.
The recent financial situation and the change in Government has brought this to attention in the UK, together with the shortage of houses to rent in London, making the Government review many a strategy and principle, along the way findings have shown that an estimated 160,000 tenants sub-let their homes.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps has voiced his opinion on this matter and states: "For too long this country has turned a blind eye on the multi-billion pound problem of housing tenancy fraud and abuse. This year the coalition is determined to end that scandal. Why should someone on a six-figure income enjoy a fantastically subsidised council rent, whilst those in real need languish on the waiting list? And why is it so easy to get away with sub-letting your council house at market rent and simply pocketing up to £1,000 a week at taxpayers' expense?"
Being high on the Governments agenda, to make this a criminal offence has certainly started with a bang of the door, the prison door slamming as we have now seen the first case and what a case it is considering the person who has been charged to 16 weeks in jail happens to be an East London Councillor.
The Government has made an example of Shelina Akhtar, a Tower Hamlets Councillor sub-let her housing association home, while still claiming benefits for the property.
And so they should!!!
Complete outrage, what a good example she has set?!
But at least she has been sentenced and it has been brought to light the exact extent of the problem. Supposedly being a member of the community means nothing to Shelina, but she certainly isn’t the only one. Some people argue that there should be new council housing being built to accommodate the ever expanding waiting list, my views on this are clear, the housing issue needs to be addressed and fast, before these waiting lists get even more out of control.
Another example used by the Conservatives is Frank Dobson, the Labour MP, who was living in a council home when he was earning a six-figure income as a cabinet minister under Tony Blair.
The contrasting opinion is that a prison sentence is only going to cost us the tax payer more and with overcrowded prisons as it is, this some say is not the best option, making them pay back the total gained and more in court charges could start to regain some of the money that the Government has lost. There are talks to give the money back to landlords instead of the Government and also to people who are in temporary accommodation, seems fair but the fundamental failures in the system for this to be happening and for so long are totally unacceptable from a tax payer’s point of view.
2012 should pull strings tighter and turn this publicity into action, but will it? We will just have to wait and see!