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Tenancy fraud - a case study

When a local authority tipped Hyde off that it was suspicious about one of its employees obtaining a property fraudulently and handed over substantial evidence, Hyde was only too happy to investigate the matter further.

“However, the case was not without technical challenges,” explained Rakhee Kotecha, Head of Legal Services.       

This was a claim for possession of a one-bed property in a prime area of London from an assured tenant on the basis that Hyde was led to grant the tenancy as a result of a  false statement made knowingly or recklessly.

When asked on a housing application form, “Do you own or partly own any property?” the tenant’s response was ‘no’. He also answered “no” when asked if he had a mortgage and was subsequently granted an assured tenancy of the property in 2013.

The tenant was first served with a notice seeking possession in August 2014; the case went to trial in April 2016.

He denied getting Hyde to grant a tenancy by his alleged false statement and defended the case on the basis that since 2007 he had held the private property in trust for his three siblings, having given up his share in settlement of a £15k loan from them.

“The tenant’s siblings provided an affidavit stating that he had not been part owner of the property since 2007, but on hearing the evidence, the Court found the tenant’s agreement with his siblings to be a sham. It was clear from the evidence he had owned a property in his sole name from 2005,” explained Rakhee

The Court heard evidence from Sean McKenna, Hyde’s Resident Services Manager, Grace Ojo, Housing Officer, and from the local authority. It also considered Hyde’s allocations policy.

After exhaustive investigative work by Hyde and a long, drawn-out case, the Court found in Hyde’s favour, stating  it could not be right that this man could get away with lying about owning a property to get into social housing, at the expense of vulnerable people in real housing need.

Following the court case the tenant initially refused to leave the property stating ill health, however when Grace, accompanied by the bailiff and locksmith, turned up on eviction day in October 2016, he had already left the premises. She said: “This was an example of an ‘inside job’ where a former local authority housing officer used his knowledge of how things work to his own advantage.”

The tenant had to pay all the costs, including the solicitor’s fees which, in the end, amounted to more than £8,000.

Without the expertise of an in-house legal team, it is likely that Hyde would not have pursued the case due to risk and cost.

“Had the case been referred to an external solicitor, Hyde would have incurred costs in the region of £50,000. We are pleased the property is now available for someone in genuine housing need, who is entitled to it,” explained Rakhee.

Find out more about how we tackle tenancy fraud