Possession Order and Order for Unlawful Profits granted, under Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act

Prince Evans Solicitors acted for a Housing Association (HA) client. The tenant who was an Assured Tenant had lived at the property with her daughter and had fallen into rent arrears. She was informed by the HA that she could not sublet the whole property.

The tenant provided the HA with ‘lodger forms’ in September 2013 and gave the name of two individuals whom she said were lodgers and sought the HA’s permission. The HA informed her that they would need to carry out an occupancy check at the property and follow procedure before signing consent for her to take in the lodgers. The tenant did not get back in touch with the HA.

It transpired that the tenant had approached a local letting agency and professional photographs were taken of the property which was then advertised. An Assured Shorthold Tenancy was granted for the whole property to two sub-tenants (named as lodgers on the ‘permission for lodgers’ form) who were unaware the property was a Social Housing property and were under the assumption that the tenant was the actual owner. The property was sublet for £1350 per month. The actual tenant paid rent of £113.56 per week (£492.09 per month) to the HA.

The subletting came to light after a few months of the HA trying to contact the tenant and several failed visits to the property being carried out. The tenant could not be reached. Eventually the sub-tenants who had been named as lodgers confirmed they were living at the property and had paid a deposit to the letting agents. The tenant had been living elsewhere with her sister whilst she sublet her property.

The tenant initially denied the subletting but the evidence was overwhelming. The HA sought possession of the property and an order for unlawful profits under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013. A Notice to Quit was served as the tenant failed to occupy the property as her main home. The tenant tried to move back into the property in February 2014 when she knew the HA had become aware of her actions. The sub-tenants left the property in late February 2014 and the tenant moved back in.

The tenant sought to defend the matter at Court. After initially being represented by legal advisors she acted as a Litigant in Person at the final hearing. On the 19th January 2015 at Willesden County Court, the Trial Judge agreed that the tenancy had been brought to an end as a result of S15A Housing Act, the tenant had lost her ‘Assured status’ and it would not be regained simply by her moving back into the property. She found that it was reasonable and proportionate to grant a possession order even though the tenant had not used the profits made for lavish holidays or expensive items but had used some of the money to pay off her rent arrears. The Judge made it clear that it would not be in the public interest to allow Social Housing to be rented out especially when there is a waiting list of thousands of people no matter what the purpose of the subletting is.

The Defendant was ordered to give possession of the property, to pay the outstanding rent arrears and unlawful profits for the sum of £3000 (reduced from £5326 as claimed) and an order for costs.

The decision of the Court sends a clear message to Social Housing tenants, that under no circumstances should their property be sublet no matter what the money is to be used for. A landlord can successfully repossess a property once a tenant has moved out even if they return and can and should seek an Unlawful Profits Order as well as costs.

For any further information please contact Aisha Akhtar, Assistant Solicitor, Housing Management Team at Prince Evans Solicitors LLP on 020 8567 3477.