Changes to the law at the end of this month mean that people who sublet their council home to someone else could be committing a criminal offence.
Offenders face prosecution and the risk of a heavy fine or prison sentence. Some may also be ordered to pay back the rent they collected from the sublet.
In a final amnesty, Enfield Council has said it will not prosecute any such tenants who return their keys before the end of the month.
In a statement, the council said it is “offering the opportunity for tenants who do not have a use for their social rented home a chance to come forward now and voluntarily hand back their keys, rather than run the risk of prosecution.
“In return, the council has undertaken not to take these cases to court.
“If people are not living at their council property anymore they can hand back the keys, no questions asked before the 31 October 2013.
“After this date any tenant caught subletting may be subject to prosecution.
“The courts will have the power to impose a prison sentence, a hefty fine and make an order forcing tenants to repay any profits made by subletting.”
REPORT YOUR NEIGHBOURS
Enfield Council also called on tenants to report any concerns or potential fraudulent activity to its Housing Investigations Team.
This can be done either by email through firstname.lastname@example.org by calling the fraud hotline on 020 8379 4289.
Anyone wishing to take part in the council’s amnesty are also asked to get in touch before 31 October to return their keys.
GHOST SUBLETTING ON THE RISE
A survey of letting agents for Direct Line last month found that rising rates of rent had created nearly 3.3 million “resident ghosts”, who live in sub-let rooms in rented homes but are not known to the landlord.
The research survey found that as many as one in 10 rental homes could be home to unofficial tenants, with almost half of residential lettings agencies finding multiple occupants living in a home unofficially after checking the properties under their management.
Three quarters of these resident ghosts have been sub-letting for more than six months, the survey found.
The incentive to illegally sub-let rooms because of rising rents and house prices, which have meant more would-be buyers must rent instead.
According to LSL Property Services data released last month, the average rent in England and Wales rose 0.7 per cent in August to £743 each month, just below the record high of £744 seen in October 2012. In London, this figure is even higher at £1,126.