Housing benefit and council tax reduction fraud
Benefit fraud happens when:
- somebody gives information they know is false when they claim
- they knowingly or dishonestly fail to tell us about changes in circumstances that will affect their claim
Our investigation team investigate suspected fraud against the housing benefit and council tax reduction scheme.
Any cases that involve a benefit looked after by another government department will usually involved a joint investigation between us and the Department of Works and Pensions Investigators.
Types of benefit fraud
|Working and claiming||Working and claiming fraud usually involves customers who are in receipt of housing benefit / council tax reduction. Working and not declared all or part of the wages or other jobs.|
|Non disclosure of property /capital||This fraud is where a claimant fails to declare either savings / capital or the ownership of another property / land elsewhere.|
|Non disclosure of income||This is where the claimant fails to declare all of their income, knowing or intending that non-declaration will increase their benefit award (for example, a private pension|
|Non disclosure of partner (living together as husband and wife)||This involves a claimant failing to declare the presence of a partner who is working, knowing or intending that this would affect their entitlement.|
|Non declaration of non dependants and/or sub tenants||It is fraudulent if a claimant fails to declare the presence of other adults living in the property, in order to preserve or increase entitlement to benefit.|
|False claims by homeowners||This is where the owner of a property falsely states that he or she is paying rent to occupy what is in fact, his or her own property.|
|Failing to declare change of address||Where a claimant fails to declare that he / she has moved, but continues to accept payments of housing benefit for their previous address, they are committing a fraud.|
|False address fraud||This fraud may occur where a person is claiming for an address at which he or she is not in fact living. This type of offence may occur with the collusion of the landlord or other tenants.|
This is where a landlord continues to receive benefit paid directly to him / her for a period after which he / she is aware the claimant vacated the premises. Where the landlord has access to more than one property, there is the potential to move tenants around without informing us.
There are many ways other ways in which landlords and managing agents can defraud the benefit system, particularly in areas where there is a large proportion of multiple occupation houses and there are many seasonal workers looking for short-term lets.
What happens to fraudsters who get caught?
We may consider an immediate prosecution or an alternative penalty for any offence which breaks the law.
Alternative penalties can include:
- cautions (a written warning issued by us)
- administrative penalties (a financial penalty amounting to 30 or 50 per cent of the money fraudulently obtained)
- penalty as an alternative to prosecution (council tax support only)
If any of these are refused the offence would be considered for legal proceedings.
Although council tax benefit finished in 2013, we will still consider taking action over any fraud related to this benefit.
People caught cheating can be fined up to £5,000 per offence and sentenced to a maximum of six months in prison or both in the magistrates court.
If the case goes to crown court they could receive an unlimited fine, up to seven years imprisonment or both.
To report benefit fraud call the confidential 24 hour Fraud Hotline on 01539 793 249
How to report benefit fraud
Benefit fraud is theft. Every year fraudulent benefit claims cost SLDC thousands of pounds. This is public money from that could be better spent improving and maintaining services.
Fraudsters should beware. SLDC Investigators identified over 40 cases that were considered suitable for prosecution action during 2012/13 and over £140,000 of benefit that had been either fraudulently or incorrectly claimed.
Sentences administered by courts can include imprisonment, fines and community penalties. Other action taken included the offer of formal cautions and financial penalties.
Taking this action supports the Council’s policy of ensuring that fraudsters are held accountable for their actions. If you think it is easy to rip off the Council, think again. We will act on any valid information received from honest citizens to ensure benefits are being claimed correctly.
Fraudsters are leaving the rest of us to foot the bill. It isn’t fair, it isn’t right and it isn’t legal.
SLDC is committed to ensuring that the correct amount of Housing/Council Tax Reduction is paid to the right people, at the right time. Honest Council Tax payers deserve and expect nothing less.
Help us to help you. If you suspect that someone on benefit:
- is working
- has not told the Council about other people living in the house
- receives other income
- has not declared capital or savings
Call the confidential 24 hour Fraud Hotline on 01539 793 249