Six homes recovered in Housing Executive 'key amnesty'

The Housing Executive's Colm McQuillan and Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations deputy chief executive Jennie Donald launching the 'key amnesty'
Brendan Hughes

SIX homes have been recovered by social housing bodies in a month-long 'key amnesty' for people committing tenancy fraud.

Tenancy fraudsters were in May offered the opportunity to hand in their keys for both Housing Executive and housing association properties without fear of legal action.

Tenancy fraud can involve people cheating the system by illegally subletting or using houses as 'dole drop' addresses to access benefits.

Housing bodies say it wrongly deprives others in need of a home.

After an assessment of returns, the Housing Executive (NIHE) has now confirmed that six properties were recovered as part of the initiative.

Two NIHE properties in the Causeway Coast and Glens council area and one in the Mid and East Antrim area were recovered.

Two homes in Belfast and a property in the Ards and North Down council area were also returned to housing associations.

Colm McQuillan, director of housing services, said: "To have three of our homes returned during the month-long key amnesty is a real success.

"With the huge pressure we have in Northern Ireland for social housing, it is wrong for people to be benefitting when they are not entitled.

"I am really pleased that the public have made use of the amnesty opportunity.

"We know that the majority of our tenants live in their homes legally and that they share our commitment to tackling tenancy fraud and I would encourage anyone who suspects someone of committing tenancy fraud to get in touch."

In May, NIHE also opened investigations into a further 71 cases of suspected tenancy fraud with 15 properties recovered by its staff.

Last year, 304 properties were recovered following 1,367 investigations and a further 88 were recovered by housing associations after 244 probes.

A Housing Executive spokesman added: "The aim of the key amnesty was to give those committing tenancy fraud the opportunity to end their tenancy as well as generally to raise awareness and increase reporting around tenancy fraud.

"In this first initiative of its kind in Northern Ireland, we have worked closely with our colleagues from the Northern Ireland Federation for Housing Associations, in-keeping with the recommendation from the Public Accounts Committee to work in partnership to tackle tenancy fraud."

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