A tenant living in a council-owned property in east London has been sent to jail after he was discovered to have been illegally renting out his home against council rules, the Newham Mag reported this weekend.
Mubato Nzabi, aged 48, was caught out by council housing inspectors in the borough of Newham, and was subsequently convicted at Wood Green Crown Court in north London of illegally subletting a three-bedroom council house in Ordnance Road, Canning Town, in the south of the borough. He allegedly lied to the council’s housing department and the Department of Work and Pensions, a national government body in charge of benefits and employment services, claiming that he was residing in the property himself along with his daughter.
In court proceedings, the judge and jury were informed that in fact, Nzabi had been renting out the property to an unnamed family since April 2013, after moving out of the property into another home, and had failed to notify the council of his change in living situation. Nzabi however continued to claim government welfare benefits, namely housing and council tax benefit, under his name for the Canning Town address despite no longer living there. He had originally moved into the property in 1994.
Nzabi’s con was unravelled after Newham Council‘s housing inspectors turned up at his subletted property for an inspection as part of their regular housing checks made to ensure council tenants are actually living in their assigned homes.
The crown court prosecuted Nzabi for falsely claiming benefits, council tax evasion and illegally subletting under the Fraud Act and the Social Security Administration Act. He was sentenced to nine months in prison at the hearing on July 24th, the Newham Recorder reported.
Mayoral advisor for housing, Cllr. Andrew Baikie, told the Recorder: “This successful prosecution shows that we take illegal subletting very seriously and will take tough action against anyone we catch.
“Illegally subletting council properties unfairly deprives someone else of a council house, who may have been waiting on our register for a long time. It is imperative that our housing stock is distributed fairly.”
Meanwhile, Newham Council, concerned about the large number of illegal sublettings of their homes in one of London’s most crowded areas, are running an amnesty for subletting tenants to turn over their properties without risk of prosecution. The amnesty, which runs until the 1st of September, allows subletters to hand over their house keys and give up their properties without being taken to court.
Cllr. Bailie said of the situation: “We take illegal subletting seriously and will take tough action against anyone we catch”. Newham council tenants wishing to avail of the amnesty are urged to call 020 3373 9370.
According to figures produced by insurance firm Direct Line and the Association of Residential Letting Agents, it is estimated that 3.3 million people are living as unofficial tenants in the UK, amounting to one in every ten rental homes. Almost fifty per cent of surveyed residential lettings agencies have found multiple occupants in homes supposedly registered to single persons or families after carrying out inspections of tenancies, according to the ARLA.
“Jailed for illegally subletting council home” – The Newham Mag [Issue 322], Newham Council (27 August 2015)
“Canning Town council tenant jailed for illegally subletting flat” – Seema Hakim, Newham Recorder/London24 news network/Archant Community Media Ltd (7 August 2015) http://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/crime-court/canning_town_council_tenant_jailed_for_illegally_subletting_flat_1_4185732
“UNAUTHORISED SUBLETTING IS A MAJOR PROBLEM FACING LANDLORDS AND AGENTS” – Association of Residential Letting Agents/National Federation Of Property Professionals (9 October 2014) http://www.arla.co.uk/news/october-2014/unauthorised-subletting-is-a-major-problem-facing-landlords-and-agents.aspx
“File:Canning Town, Normandy Terrace, E16 – geograph.org.uk – 408315.jpg” – Nigel Cox & geograph.org.uk via Wikimedia Commons (20 April 2007) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Canning_Town,_Normandy_Terrace,_E16_-_geograph.org.uk_-_408315.jpg