Council offers amnesty to tenants illegally sub-letting

Council offers amnesty to tenants illegally sub-letting

A council is offering its tenants an amnesty if they are illegally sub-letting their homes.

In January, new laws made it a serious criminal offence for council tenants to sub-let, with penalties of six months in prison and fines of up to £5,000, but Camden Council in London will give offenders a two-month period of grace in which to hand back their keys anonymously, with no action taken.

Camden housing chief Julian Fulbrook said retrieving just one property through the scheme would justify it, because of the cost of legal proceedings. The council has 24,000 on its waiting list and recovered 102 properties last year that had been sub-let.

Council tenants who sub-let themselves pay cheap social rents, but make a fortune by letting them out at private sector rates.

Fulbrook said: “If it returns us one single council flat it will be a financial success, because we are haemorrhaging money to these scams.

“Not only are these landlords raking it in, they’re also denying a right to accommodation for other families.

“It’s an absolute disaster for the families who should be living in the properties.

“We have families living in one room in hostels, or technically homeless and sofa-surfing, and that’s not particularly pleasant when you’ve got kids.”

Camden’s action comes as the debate hots up over rent-to-rent – the practice of sub-letting in the private sector which is not illegal.