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Enfield Council prosecutes tenant for subletting

Published Friday, 27 April 2012

A Hertfordshire woman has become the first person to be prosecuted by the Enfield Council Housing Investigation Team for illegally subletting her council flat.

Akpoesiri Makelemi, of Swift Close, Royston, Hertfordshire, was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, on Thursday 26 April after pleading guilty at Wood Green Crown Court to dishonestly making false representations.

She was also made subject to a 12 month supervision order, ordered to undertake 250 hours of unpaid work, instructed to pay compensation of £500 to her former sub tenant and instructed to pay costs of £600.

She was given a council tenancy at Curlew House, Napier Road, Enfield, by Enfield Council on 20 October 2009 and charged £103.61 in weekly rent for the 2 bedroom flat.

But in November that year she illegally sublet the  property for £500 per month to a private tenant who also paid a £500 deposit.

The fraud was only uncovered in July 2011 when a dispute arose between Mrs Makelemi and the sub tenant to whom she had rented her council property after she declared she planned to end the tenancy and change the locks.

The Police were called and phoned Enfield Council to check the owner of the tenancy and the Council’s Counter Fraud Team then began an investigation into Mrs Makelemi who later revealed, under caution, that she was living in Hertfordshire.

The Council’s Housing Investigation Team conducted a further investigation into Mrs Makelemi’s background jointly with Edmonton Police Payback Unit and established Mrs Makelemi had been living and claiming housing benefits in North Hertfordshire since December 2008.

Her tenancy was then terminated, the locks on the property changed, and the sub-tenant removed from the Curlew House property.

Mrs Makelemi appeared at Enfield Magistrates Court on the 9 December 2011 charged under Section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006 with dishonestly falsely representing that she was the landlord of the property, and making a gain of rental income for herself.

The case was adjourned and committed to Wood Green Crown Court after Mrs Makelemi pleaded not guilty to the charges against her, but at a hearing on 29 March 2012 she changed her plea to guilty.

Enfield Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and Property, Cllr Andrew Stafford, said: "Every property that is unlawfully sublet deprives a family of housing and makes the waiting list longer for housing."

"It costs us on average £18,000 per year to keep a family in temporary accommodation, money which could be better spent on front line services."

"Fraudsters of this nature put a tremendous strain on council resources at this time of reductions in council budgets and we are doing all we can to eradicate fraud in Enfield."

"This sentence sends out a strong message that this behaviour will not be tolerated and we will continue to take firm action against those people who misuse council property for their own financial gain."

Detective Sergeant Angus Naismith of Enfield's financial investigation team said: "Officers from the Payback Unit at Edmonton police station are working in close partnership with Enfield council, finding new ways to promote the use of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. We will seek to identify offenders engaged in this criminal activity, prosecute offenders and upon conviction recover the proceeds of their crime."

Since April 2011 Enfield Council’s Housing Investigation Team has recovered 50 properties from tenants who have either sublet their property to a third party, owned a second property, and/or not lived at their property.

As a result of the investigation by Enfield Council’s Housing Investigation Team into Mrs Makelemi’s wrongful use of her tenancy her property was recovered and released back into the Council’s housing stock. The property at Curlew House was given to a new tenant from the Council’s waiting list in December 2011.

This is the first criminal prosecution that Enfield Council has undertaken and only the second of its type in London where the prosecution has been based solely on the issue of subletting and not tied to a benefit fraud related offence.

If you know of anyone unlawfully subletting their council home or if you are renting a council property from a private landlord and you would like the Council to check it has been approved, please contact the Counter Fraud Team on their hotline number 0208 379 4289.

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