City of York Council has successful executed the first criminal prosecution for subletting in North Yorkshire, and one of only a handful across the country.
Beatrice Stanford, aged 43, of Bielby was prosecuted under the Fraud Act for subletting her City of York Council property in Fenwick Street, York. She pleaded guilty to the offence and was sentenced yesterday (12th July) to 12 months' conditional discharge and costs of £425. Stanford had been a council tenant at the address since 2006.
All council tenants must use their property as their sole or main home and have a duty to inform the council if this changes. In January 2012 the council and Veritau, the company which provides the council's fraud investigation service, were alerted to an illegal subletting of the property by Stanford. As a result of this an investigation was instigated.
During the course of the investigation it was found that Stanford had been illegally sub-letting the property to a third party since November 2009 whilst she went to live in Bielby. Stanford had charged the tenant £450 per calendar month in rent but this had latterly risen to £520 per month to include utility bills. The actual rent charged by the council to Stanford was £350 per month.
Whilst Stanford was subletting the property, the council's waiting list contained thousands of people wanting council accommodation.
In January 2012 a notice to quit was served on Stanford. When this notice expired Stanford removed the remainder of her belongings from Fenwick Street and left the property. Her keys were handed back to the council and the property has been re-let to new tenants.
Councillor Tracey Simpson-Laing, cabinet member for Health, Housing and Adult Social Services for City of York Council, said:
"This case sends a clear message to the people of York that the council will take a zero tolerance approach to the illegal subletting of council properties. We currently have over 4,000 people on a waiting list for housing and we need to maximise the social housing available to us."
Max Thomas, head of Internal Audit for Veritau said:
"This is the first prosecution of its kind in North Yorkshire and one of only a handful across the country. Subletting council properties is a criminal offence and those that choose to do it can face prosecution. The subtenants, as in this case, often do not know that they are renting a council property. Anyone who knows of someone subletting a council property please phone the fraud hotline on 01904 552935 or email firstname.lastname@example.org ."