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    We’re giving tenants who are breaking the rules and cheating others out of a home the chance to change their ways without being punished.

    West Kent is joining other housing associations and local councils across Kent in offering a ‘key amnesty’ to tenants who are committing tenancy fraud in one of a number of ways, perhaps by subletting their home or charging other people to live there while they stay elsewhere.

    During June’s month-long amnesty, tenants who hand in their keys so that their property can be offered to someone who really needs it will not face prosecution or legal action of any kind.

    Our aim is to take homes back from tenants who are cheating the system so that we can re-allocate them to people who need and deserve one of our homes.

    And while tenants who hand their keys in voluntarily during June won’t be punished, those we hear about in other ways will be. Key Amnesty poster

    As Genette Pinwill, our Head of Tenancy Services, pointed out: “If the awareness raised by this campaign prompts someone to tell us they think a neighbour is defrauding the association, we will investigate in the normal way.

    “If that investigation finds someone is committing tenancy fraud, we won’t hesitate to take action, and that will usually involve prosecution. The June amnesty only applies to tenants who come to us."

    There are several ways in which tenants can defraud their housing association landlord and the penalties can be severe, with a jail term of up to two years and fines of up to £50,000 possible.

    “The most basic form of fraud is simply lying about your circumstances in order to rent a home you wouldn’t otherwise be entitled to,” explained Genette.

    It is also against the law for a tenant to make a profit from subletting a spare room in the property without asking our permission or to move out completely and charge another family or families rent on the home that is registered to them.

    “In other cases the tenant dies and a relative falsely claims to have been living in the house for a number of years, sometimes claiming they were looking after the former owner, in order to be given the tenancy,” Genette added.

    “However it is done, tenancy fraud is a very serious issue. It restricts the amount of housing available for those with a genuine need and it is a drain on the public purse because the authorities have to provide people still on the list with temporary accommodation.

    “This is a chance to avoid the consequences of being caught by coming forward voluntarily during the amnesty. If a tenant does that we will not take any further action, but if we are tipped off by someone else, it will be a different story.”

    If you are breaking the rules and want to take advantage of the amnesty, contact your Tenancy Services Officer or call in at our Sevenoaks office to hand in your keys with no questions asked. Please include the address of the property so that the home can be re-allocated.

    If you have information about someone you think is breaking the rules, please get in touch with us in confidence. If you believe you might be living in a home that is being sub-let illegally, please get in touch and we will give you as much advice and support as possible.

    Ring 01732 749400 or email help@wkha.org.uk

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