Double success for client accused of Tenancy Fraud.
Our client, a council tenant, lived in a one bedroom council flat. His landlord The London Borough of Lambeth issued possession proceedings claiming he had sublet the property. They said he had lost his secure tenancy by subletting the whole of the premises. This was a breach terms of the terms of the tenancy.
The tenant denied subletting his property. There was a term in the tenancy which stated that he could have lodgers. However, there was no requirement for written consent.
The tenancy had been given when he applied as homeless having arrived in the UK as a refugee. He had witnessed atrocities abroad. He suffered from depression and PTSD and so was vulnerable.
Unknown to him the property had been advertised by fraudsters. The fraudsters had taken rent and deposits from at least two people. Our client immediately contacted the police who informed him that he had been a victim of fraud.
The council interviewed our client with us present. They were considering prosecuting him for tenancy fraud under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013. Our solicitor Keith Hollywood then obtained full disclosure. The officers claimed that our client had documentary links with another address. It was also said that they had received a complaint from a person trying to rent the property from an advertisement on Gum Tree. The investigator claimed that when they went to the flat the door was opened and then slammed in their face.
Accordingly, he explained that he had always lived in the flat full time, that he had only just let a room to lodgers and that the Gum Tree advert was the work of fraudsters. This was repeated to the council.
The claimants said they would let us know if they decided bring a criminal prosecution.
Shortly after they issued civil possession proceeding. We immediately applied for legal aid to defend the proceedings and filed a defence denying the subletting. Gum Tree advert was explained by stating that it must have been fraudsters who placed it.
In due course we filed comprehensive witness statements and produced documents linking us throughout to the flat. After nearly 12 months the council informed us that there would be no criminal prosecution. We immediately requested that they withdraw the civil claim. This was agreed and the case was dismissed with costs.
The key factors in defending this tenancy fraud and possession case:
- Seeking early legal advice as soon as the investigation started
- Attending the interview with a solicitor which meant we had disclosure of the evidence.
- Answering the council’s case as soon as possible
- Robustly defending the possession claim.
- As soon as the criminal investigation was dropped we were able to demand that they also stopped seeking possession.