A Waltham Forest Council tenant has been convicted of illegally subletting his property to his adult children and given a two-year suspended prison sentence at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Thursday 21 November.
Mr. Uwe Werner, 55, of Braintree, Essex, was investigated after the council’s Corporate Anti-Fraud Team received an allegation that he no longer resided at the two-bedroom property on Sansom Road, Leytonstone. Multiple visits and checks established that Mr Werner was in fact living in a rented property in Braintree, Essex, while the Waltham Forest address had been sublet to his two adult children over a three-and-a-half-year period between January 2015 and June 2018.
During the period of the investigation, Mr. Werner had applied to purchase the council property through the Right to Buy scheme, entitling him to a £108,000 discount. This application was subsequently withdrawn by Mr. Werner once he was made aware that he was subject to investigation.
The case was heard at Snaresbrook Crown Court in November 2019 by His Honour Judge Pounder. In mitigation Mr. Werner explained that his circumstances had changed in 2014 when his work led him to move to Braintree with his wife and youngest children, and so he made the improper decision to illegally sublet the Sansom Road property to his adult children, making a profit of £5226.00.
In considering sentence, Judge Pounder commented: “You were originally a legitimate tenant, but your criminal liability is you took a decision which was the wrong decision.”
Mr. Werner received a two-year suspended custodial sentence, and Judge Pounder also imposed an Unlawful Profit Order for the full amount by which he profited from subletting his council property. Mr. Werner must now vacate the Leytonstone address or Waltham Forest Council will instigate civil proceedings to terminate the tenancy.
A council spokesperson said: “Waltham Forest Council is committed to fighting corruption and dishonesty. Combating tenancy fraud is high on our agenda as we work to ensure that our properties are made available for those who have a genuine need for them.
“We hope this case sends a clear message – we will fully investigate any suspected cases of tenancy fraud and those found guilty may be required to vacate their homes as Mr Werner will now have to. This property will now be used to provide a decent roof over the head of a new family, giving them the security and stability they need to make the most of their life chances in Waltham Forest.”
Tenancy fraud costs councils in the UK approximately £900 million per year. Each unlawfully sublet council or social housing property has an average cost to the council of around £58,000. If you suspect you know of someone living in a council property who is committing tenancy fraud, you can let us know here.