News release from 16/01/2023
Key Amnesty campaign to tackle misused Council properties in South Cambridgeshire
People who are misusing Council properties are being offered a one-off opportunity to #DoTheRightThing and return their keys without facing criminal proceedings during a month-long crackdown by South Cambridgeshire District Council.
A “Key Amnesty” campaign called #DoTheRightThing is taking place across the district during February 2023 to give tenants the opportunity to voluntarily hand in their keys, for a limited time, with no further action taken.
#DoTheRightThing is targeting people who:
- Have provided false information on application forms for housing.
- Anyone illegally subletting, where the tenant moves out then rents the property to someone else, usually at a higher rent.
- Right To Buy fraud, where people do not meet the criteria to buy their property but make false applications to benefit from a discount.
- Tenants who fail to use the property as the only or principal home as well as those who abandon homes without following the proper process.
It is hoped the campaign will also provide an opportunity to raise awareness among people who moved out of Council properties to create a family bubble during the Covid pandemic, who wish to remain living with relatives. They may now realise they no longer require their Council home and wish to #DoTheRightThing by handing in their keys, enabling another family to come out of temporary accommodation or off the housing waiting list.
#DoTheRightThing runs across South Cambridgeshire District from February 1 to 28. To surrender keys, people are asked to hand them in to South Cambridgeshire Hall, Cambourne CB23 6EA, in an envelope containing the property address. No more questions will be asked.
Cllr John Batchelor, Lead Cabinet member for Housing, said: “Housing fraud costs those in need a roof over their head and lengthens Council waiting lists. We know the overwhelming majority of residents live in their homes legally, however, we all have a responsibility to ensure that those in most need can access the limited Council housing available. So, I’m encouraging people to please make the most of our key amnesty by either handing in keys or reporting people who are known to be illegally in possession of a Council home. We are committed to ensuring that Council homes are used by those entitled to them.”
Evidence shows key amnesty campaigns have worked well in other parts of the country by bringing the issue to the public’s attention. While we do not know the figures of fraud in the District - by its nature it’s a hidden crime - to even get one house back for a family in need will be considered a success.
In South Cambridgeshire:
- It costs an average of £14,000 a year of taxpayers’ money to house a family in temporary accommodation while they wait for a Council home.
- Around 39% of fraud calls to the district council relate to housing fraud.
- The average duration of housing fraud is three years.
- The average wait time for a three-bed house is 11 months. This wait time could be reduced if keys are handed in for homes no longer required.
Nationally, housing fraud:
- Costs the UK taxpayer an estimated £60m a year.
- Is the second largest cause of local government fraud.
- It is not a victimless crime as it deprives families in need.