Participants in last month’s Key Amnesty scheme are pleased to announce that the scheme was a success as several sets of keys were handed back to Kent housing associations and local councils, freeing up accommodation for people genuinely in need of a property.

Town & Country Housing and 13 other landlords signed up to Kent Tenancy Fraud Forum scheme to ask tenants to inform us if they have been breaking the rules of their tenancy by allowing someone else to stay in a property who’s not legally entitled to be there to live in their property.

Tenancy fraud occurs when a tenant allows their home to be occupied by someone who isn’t legally entitled to be there, or if someone has obtained use of the property by giving false information. Leaving a property empty while living elsewhere may also be tenancy fraud. A tenant making a profit from subletting all of their home or a spare room may also be committing tenancy fraud.

Local housing association Optivo has recovered one home that was being rented fraudulently and is following up two more possible cases where tenants are longer living at the properties, but still hold a tenancy.

Elsewhere, Southern Housing Group has received one set of keys from a tenant who had moved to Hastings with her partner and left her daughter living in the premises, while Clarion Housing Group has taken back a home that was being sublet by a tenant who had moved to Surrey.

It is illegal for a tenant to move move out completely and charge someone else to rent on a property where they hold a tenancy, and such fraud can result in a jail term of up to two years and fines of up to £50,000.

During June’s month-long amnesty, tenants who handed in their keys have not faced prosecution or legal action of any kind.

Now that it is over, Adam Simmonds, chairman of the Kent Tenancy Fraud Forum, notes that circumstances are back to normal when it comes to housing fraud. “If the awareness raised by this campaign prompts someone to tell us they think a neighbour is defrauding the housing association, we will investigate in the normal way.”

He concludes: “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.”

Anyone who suspects a neighbour may be subletting their property or might be living in a home that is being sublet illegally is also urged to get in contact with their local authority’s housing options team, who will give them as much advice and support as possible.