Council flat seized after right-to-buy fraud investigation
In the face of huge housing pressure Lambeth Council is working hard to ensure that its council flats are only occupied by those in need, and using the courts take action against those who abuse the system. In the past two years 166 properties have been recovered by the council from those found to have been committing tenancy fraud.
In the most recent case Edith Chiwuzie, 50, formerly of Ward Point, Kennington was convicted of two offences under the Fraud Act 2006 following a prosecution by Lambeth Council that resulted in a suspended jail sentence, community service, and an order to pay £2,500 council prosecution costs.
Chiwuzie was convicted of failing to disclose that she was no longing occupying her Lambeth Council property as her main or principal home and of making a false representation in relation to a Right To Buy Application. The flat has also been handed back to Lambeth Council.
Cllr Matthew Bennett, Cabinet member for Housing, said: “The housing crisis that Lambeth faces is severe, with 21,000 people on our social housing waiting list, 1,800 families are homeless and in temporary accommodation, including almost 5,000 children.
“More than 1,300 families in the borough live in severely overcrowded accommodation. In this situation we must do all we can to support those with the greatest need and welcome this most recent successful prosecution.”
Chiwuzie moved out of her council property after she got married and moved to Croydon. However, she failed to hand back the one bedroom property in Kennington to the council.
Lambeth investigators started looking into her tenancy in May 2015 when she put in an application to purchase the property under the Right to Buy. Enquiries are carried out on all purchases and when these checks were conducted it was found that she appeared to be living at the Croydon address. The evidence indicated Chiwuzie had not lived at the flat for a number of years and in July 2016, she relinquished her tenancy.
On August 12, 2016 at Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court she pleaded guilty two charges under the Fraud Act 2006; one of making a false representation and of failure to disclose non-occupation. The Right To Buy application which had triggered the investigation would have allowed her to purchase the property with discount of £102,700.
Chiwuzie was committed for sentencing to the Crown Court. On October 7 at Inner London Crown Court she was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months. The Judge also imposed an unpaid work requirement of 120 hours, a victim surcharge of £120, and a contribution of £2,500 towards prosecution costs to be paid within twelve months.
In sentencing, the Judge noted that Mrs Chiwuzie had not been in occupation of the flat for at least five years. In those years, the Council could have housed someone else in the flat and that meant a financial loss to the council. He noted that she also made two claims for the Right To Buy, neither of which progressed successfully.