Tenancy fraud policy
This Tenancy Fraud Policy has been developed in line with Wandle’s values, which are:
- Think customer
- Build relationships
- Work together
- Aim high
- Own it
It will ensure that actions we undertake will be underpinned by our vision of:
“Homes to be proud of and services you can trust”
Wandle takes allegations of tenancy fraud very seriously and is committed to making sure that the public and charitable funds we administer are used correctly. We take a zero tolerance approach to any criminal financial misconduct, whether it is committed by an employee, contractor, customer or external party.
In October 2013, the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act (PoSHFA) was passed, making it a criminal offence for social housing tenants to sub-let or to acquire social housing through deception. Offenders face prosecution which can result in an unlimited fine and/or two years in jail.
This policy applies to the whole of the organisation and is designed to create a common understanding of the impacts to Wandle from this crime and what can be done by every Wandle worker. The policy should be read in conjunction with the Anti-Fraud & Bribery Policy.
Top Level Commitment
The Wandle Board is committed to ensuring the organisation’s zero tolerance approach to tenancy fraud is communicated and enforced. This is regularly monitored by the Audit Committee.
Affordable housing is a limited resource and housing fraud is a recognised threat to the provision of housing to those in genuine need, including older people and the vulnerable. Therefore, housing fraud must be a concern to all Wandle staff and board members. The purpose of this policy is to set out specific responsibilities with regards the prevention of housing fraud.
The impact of housing fraud can extend well beyond the direct financial loss to the organisation as it can also negatively affect the communities in which it is found (through association to antisocial behaviour), staff morale, the organisation’s reputation, and Wandle’s ability to maintain existing homes and to build new ones.
Wandle will ensure that any allegations of housing fraud are taken seriously and investigated in an appropriate manner, subject to the requirements of appropriate legislation. Staff should report any suspicions to their manager or the Fraud Team. Anonymous reports will be investigated where possible, but may be more difficult to progress.
Wandle has a number of internal controls designed to help prevent housing fraud. These include tenancy audits, periodic reviews of housing processes & procedures, ‘housing fraud’ focused initiatives (such as ‘key fob/communal access changes), segregation of duties, training & awareness, policies and procedures.
All members of staff should assist the Fraud Team , when necessary, in conducting enquiries into allegations.
The investigating officer is authorised by the Chief Executive to inspect all documents, records and accounts relevant to an investigation held in any form.
The investigating officer will work in partnership with key stakeholders such as Local Authorities and law enforcement agencies in order to detect and investigate housing fraud.
Indicators of housing fraud
Some common signs of fraud to look out for include:
- The inability to gain access to properties to carry out tenancy audit or safety checks
- A lack of engagement between the tenant and Wandle
- The lack of repairs requested at property
- Regular vandalism to communal door entry systems
- Variations of credit or arrears on a rent account
- Council Tax arrears
Wandle will always seek to sanction offenders and recover all losses from tenancy housing fraud. Prosecution will be pursued wherever possible and practical.
Periodic reports will be made to the Audit Committee detailing progress on active fraud cases. Where appropriate cases will also be reported to the Regulator, Police and our insurers.
The Data Protection Policy must always be followed when investigating a case under this policy. The Corporate Compliance Manager will review any requests to share data for the purposes of fraud prevention or detection.
We will take steps to ensure that Wandle’s stance on housing fraud is widely publicised within the organisation and all staff are aware of housing fraud risks. As part of this suitable training will be provided to staff.
Where housing fraud is suspected, all Wandle staff are required to refer the matter to the Fraud Team for investigation.
The Fraud Team work together with the housing management team to ensure that:
Executive Director, Business Services and Transformation The Executive Director, , Business Services and Transformation is responsible for the proper administration of Wandle tenancy Fraud Function.
Head of Customer Service Delivery
The Head of Customer Service Delivery is responsible for: ensuring all tenancy fraud allegations are properly investigated and reported to the Audit Committee and Regulator as appropriate
Line Managers are responsible for ensuring that staff report any potentially fraudulent activity directly to those responsible for the investigation, without fear of unlawful disclosure or retribution.
Individual members of staff are responsible for:
The Fraud Team is responsible for:
Liaising with law enforcement agencies and other 3rd party partners in regard to housing fraud as necessary.
The Audit Committee are responsible for oversight of this policy, including reviewing performance and monitoring high risk or complex investigations.
Tenancy Fraud falls into seven common categories:
This is where a tenant lets out their property without Wandle’s knowledge or permission. Detection of this particular fraud is difficult as the authorised tenant often continues to pay the rent for the property directly to the Wandle but charge the person with whom they are subletting the Wandle property to at a much higher rate.
Obtaining housing by deception
This is where a person(s) obtains a tenancy via the local authority or a housing association by giving false information in their application for housing. As an example, not declaring that they are renting another council or housing association property or by giving false information about who lives with them.
Tenancy succession by deception
This is when a tenant passes away and someone who is not eligible for the tenancy applies to succeed.
This is where the authorised tenant is paid a sum of money to pass on the keys to their tenancy, or where a Wandle staff member receives payment for allocating the property in breach of the Allocations Policy.
Associated Fraudulent Benefit Applications
This is where a Wandle property is used to assist with a fraudulent claim for housing benefit or UniversalCredit
Unlawful Use of Property
This is where the property is not being used by the Tenant as their only and principal home; this may be via abandonment or key selling or the property is being used for other means such as storage or illicit use; this may be for cultivation and/or distribution of drugs.
Illegally purchasing a property under the Right to Buy/Acquire
This includes but is not limited to; fraudulent applications, previous tenancy fraud such as subletting, funds from an ineligible source and/or money laundering.
2.2.1 Registered providers shall publish clear and accessible policies which outline their approach to tenancy management, including interventions to sustain tenancies and prevent unnecessary evictions, and tackling tenancy fraud, and set out:
Wandle have a number of clear and accessible policies some of which are published on the website and other are available on request. These are reviewed on a regular basis.
2.2.6 Registered providers shall make sure that the home continues to be occupied by the tenant they let the home to in accordance with the requirements of the relevant tenancy agreement, for the duration of the tenancy, allowing for regulatory requirements about participation in mutual exchange schemes.
Targeted audits take place where fraud is suspected. Instances of fraud identified through the audit or by other means is escalated to Wandle’s fraud team. This Tenancy Fraud policy outlines our approach to Fraud and ensuring our properties are used by those most in need of a home.
|Key Strategy||Risk Management|
|Policies||Allocations Anti-Fraud and Bribery Policy Anti-Money Laundering Data Protection Disciplinary Whistleblowing|
|Other documents||Code of Conduct|
|Legislation||Main powers and relevance to policy subject|
|The Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act (PoSHFA) 2013||The act applies to social housing tenants and introduces two criminal offences: By subletting or parts with possession of a property or ceases to occupy knowing that it is a breach of tenancy.Breach of tenancy by sublet without consent & ceases to occupy the property as their only or principal home.|
|Housing Act 1985/8||Outlines the ‘consent’ to subletting.|
|The Fraud Act 2006||Deals with the general offence of fraud.|
|Proceeds of Crime Act 2002||Outlines how any money earned or assets acquired with the proceeds of crime can be recovered.|
Equality & Diversity is central to our business; promoting fairness and opportunity for customers and staff; helping provide the best services shaped by and for customers; and right for recruiting and developing our staff.
We are committed to celebrating diversity. To ensure equal access to our services is available, Wandle will comply with the Equality Act 2010 and all other legislative requirements relating to equality. We will work to avoid exclusions or restrictions that are not appropriate to the housing and support needs of our tenants and that may lead to discrimination. We will endeavour to ensure that all tenants receive a consistent level of quality service.
Under the Equality Act 2010 Wandle must consider whether our policies adversely affect our customers and/or staff.
The following table identifies whether this policy disproportionately impacts upon any individuals in regard to the key protected characteristics, as identified in the Act:
|Special Characteristic||Any impact? (Yes or No)|
|marriage and civil partnership||No|
|pregnancy and maternity||No|
|religion or belief||No|
We do not consider this policy to disproportionately impact any individuals in regard to these characteristics and therefore a detailed Equality Impact Assessment is not required.