News

Over 160 housing fraud cases investigated in Strabane district

Thursday, 3 November 2016

THERE have been more than 160 cases of suspected housing fraud cases investigated by the NI Housing Executive (NIHE) across the Strabane district in the last two-and-a-half years.

The statistics were disclosed by the housing body following an information request from the Strabane Weekly News.

According to the NIHE's records, a total of 166 cases of tenancy fraud have been investigated by the Strabane office from April 2014 up until September this year.

There were 76 cases of suspected tenancy fraud investigated across the Strabane area by the Housing Executive during the year 2014/15; 68 cases in 2015/16 and 22 cases between April and September 2016.

Those investigations resulted in the recovery of 35 houses. Most of the properties recovered have now been reallocated to people who were on the social housing waiting list, the Executive says. A further eight cases for the April to September period are ongoing.

A Housing Executive spokesperson said it takes the issue seriously adding that every year people in need are being denied homes because of people abusing social housing.

"Every year, people on the waiting list are denied a Housing Executive home because of tenancy fraud. Housing tenancy fraud is the use of social housing by someone who is not entitled to it. This can take several forms, including the abandonment and non-occupation of properties by tenants," she said.

"The Housing Executive takes seriously all suspected reports of tenancy fraud and has a strategy in place to combat tenancy fraud. We seek to prevent, detect and respond effectively to all instances of suspected tenancy fraud.

"However, it is essential that local residents and community groups work in partnership with us to help eradicate this type of fraud."

 

'Concerning'

 West Tyrone SDLP MLA., Daniel McCrossan, says he is deeply concerned about the figures and revealed that he will be bringing the matter up with the Stormont minister responsible for housing.

Speaking this week, he said: "Considering the massive waiting lists for social housing, especially in West Tyrone, the level of tenancy fraud is concerning.

"I know first-hand, through representing many constituents, that there are very real and genuine people out there who cannot get housed - they are living in cramped conditions, in housing that is not suitable, many young single mothers are being separated from their children."

He added that looming cuts under welfare reform will only exacerbate the problem.

 "There is also an underlying issue here as well, many people are in desperation for an extra few pounds and tenancy fraud presents itself as easy money. This situation will only be exacerbated when the full force of welfare cuts are felt.

 "I will be submitting questions to the minister to see how his department deals with this issue. But I will also be questioning what resources are spent in Strabane especially to mitigate harsh welfare cuts," he said.

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