Northumberland County Council is joining forces with partners across the region to warn people of the harm caused by tenancy fraud, which is depriving families and vulnerable people on housing waiting lists of a home.

The council has teamed up with neighbouring local authorities and social housing providers for Regional Tenancy Fraud Awareness Week.

Tenancy fraud is when a council home is not occupied by the tenant and has either been abandoned or sublet, or when a tenant has obtained a home by deception or wrongly claiming succession after a family member dies.

A social housing tenant must give their landlord the correct notice if they wish to end their tenancy and not leave the property empty or let anyone else live there illegally. This ensures that properties can be re-let quickly to another family in genuine need.

Tenancy fraud is a criminal offence and the council’s fraud team investigate all allegations of tenancy fraud, which may involve gathering evidence from third parties and visiting tenants or investigating applicants on the housing waiting list to confirm the information given is correct.

The council’s fraud team also investigate all right to buy applications to make sure properties are only sold to those entitled to them.

Over the past year, the county council has received 71 right to buy applications, and as a result of the enhanced verification work, 31 of these were withdrawn saving the authority £1.3m in discounts. Further investigations have resulted in two Homefinder applications being withdrawn and 11 tenancies being terminated, saving the council a total of £636,000.

Coun. Nick Oliver, cabinet member with responsibility for corporate services said: “Tenancy fraud is not a victimless crime and those that commit fraud to gain access to our social housing do so at the expense of those in real need.

“If you are aware of someone trying to jump the housing waiting list or you are made aware of a property being misused, please let us know about it.”

The North East Tenancy Fraud Forum includes registered social landlords and local authorities from across the North-East.