Published: Monday, 6th February 2017

Partnership working leads to successful prosecution and repayment of over £4,000.

An investigation by the Royal Borough's Internal Audit & Anti-Fraud team has led to the successful prosecution of a man for illegally subletting his housing association property.

Royal Borough and Charlton Triangle working together

In 1999, Mr Adio Raji, 50, obtained a one bedroom property with Charlton Triangle at Valiant House, Charlton, SE7, however, in 2015 Charlton Triangle tenancy officers began to suspect that Mr Raji was no longer living at the property and may have been subletting it illegally.

As a result of funding obtained from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) the Royal Borough of Greenwich's Unauthorised Occupation team (UOT) was able to offer assistance to Charlton Triangle to identify sublet properties. Initial checks identified that Mr Raji may have been subletting the Charlton Triangle property since June 2014.

Mr Raji's tenant stated that they had been evicted from the property after having returned to the property to find all their possessions had been put into storage. It was at this time that the Council also learnt that Mr Raji had been charging rent of £800 a month for the Charlton Triangle property.

In October 2013 the introduction of the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 enabled local authorities to contact banks and request details of an individual's bank account when tenancy fraud was suspected. This was undertaken on behalf of Charlton Triangle and confirmed that Mr Raji had been receiving £800 a month in rent for the property since 1 June 2014.

Interviewed by council officers and charged

In February 2016 Mr Raji was interviewed by council officers and the evidence of his subletting was put to him to which he replied "no comment" to all questions asked. Shortly after the interview Mr Raji was served with a Notice to Quit the Charlton Triangle property and after continued denial of subletting he eventually returned the keys to the property in March 2016.

However, this was not the end of the matter and the details were put forward to the Royal Borough's legal team for prosecution consideration. Mr Raji was summonsed to attend Bexley Magistrates Court on 31 October 2016, charged with offences relating to the Fraud Act, the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act offence and one offence under the Protection from Eviction Act for having illegally removed his tenant from the property. At the hearing Mr Raji gave no plea indication and the matter was passed to Woolwich Crown Court.

Given a suspended prison sentence

On 20 January 2017 Mr Raji appeared at Woolwich Crown Court and pleaded guilty to three charges. He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months, ordered to undertake 180 hours of unpaid work within the community and ordered to pay the unlawful rental profit he had made of £4,330.29. He was also ordered to pay £500 costs and a victim surcharge of £100.

We will catch those who abuse the system

This case is now one of several prosecutions underway which have arisen from the work undertaken by the Royal Borough of Greenwich in partnership with the Charlton Triangle Housing Association, and one of many that are under investigation as a result of partnership working with other Registered Social Landlords.

Councillor Maureen O'Mara, Cabinet Member for Customer Services at the Royal Borough of Greenwich, said: "The demand for social housing is at an all-time high for all social housing providers. Due to the excellent joint working of the Royal Borough and the Charlton Triangle Housing Association we have managed to catch another housing fraudster and another property has been returned. This will now be allocated to a Greenwich resident in genuine need."

Andrew Kimmance, Director Charlton Triangle Homes, said: "This is a great example of effective collaboration between agencies. The message is that we have zero tolerance of sub-letting of desperately needed, affordable homes and we will continue to work together to catch those abusing the system. This case sends an important message - you will be caught and the consequences are extreme."