A woman who unlawfully sub-let her social housing property has been ordered to pay more than £155,000 in one of the largest cases of its kind.
Miss Adejoke Patience Ologe, aged 56, had rented out the two-bedroom flat in Camberwell, South London, to two women and their children despite renting the accommodation herself from Riverside Housing.
After a long period with no contact from the tenant, it was initially suspected that the property had been abandoned.
The counter-fraud team at Riverside worked in partnership with Oxford City Council and other local authorities to investigate.
Through the partnership, investigators uncovered the unlawful sublet and obtained evidence demonstrating that Miss Ologe had not been living at the property since at least 2008.
At Clerkenwell & Shoreditch County Court on 3 June 2021, a judge dismissed her account.
In addition to granting Riverside Housing outright possession, the judge made an unlawful profit order in the sum of £145,178 together with a demand that she repay £3,000 of rent arrears and £9,955 of legal costs.
The unlawful profit order is believed to be the second largest ever issued in the UK, and was based on a calculation that suggested Miss Ologe had received £216,000 over the 12-year period.
Andrea Thorn, director of homes and communities at Riverside, said: “This was a blatant, dishonest fraud. With social housing in huge demand, it’s vital we pursue such cases in order to make properties available to families and individuals who will act honestly and deserve them.
“When I speak to our customers, I know nothing annoys them more than when they follow the rules and others flout them and get away with it, so, I hope this sends a clear message to them – we can and will take action.”
Scott Warner, counter fraud manager of Oxford City Council, added: “This is a landmark case that really demonstrates the value of our partnership working approach with Riverside.
“Social Housing fraud is often seen as a hidden crime but the effect is felt far and wide.
“With the demand for social housing, unlawfully subletting a property means a deserving family are unable to occupy a home and may need to reside in expensive, unsuitable temporary accommodation for longer than is necessary.”
Katrina Robinson MBE, associate solicitor at Capsticks, who dealt with the legal case, said: “The perseverance and hard work of Riverside’s Counter Fraud Specialist and Oxford City Council was more than enough to convince the judge to make the Order.
“The judge said ‘This was a serious abuse of public housing resources for personal gain – the court cannot condone it’.
“It is fantastic that the law and the judiciary are recognising the seriousness of tenancy fraud and the negative effects on communities across the country.
“It’s even better that social landlords such as Riverside are saying enough is enough.”
Councillor Ed Turner, Oxford City Council’s cabinet member for finance and asset management, said: “The City Council is committed to countering public sector fraud in all its aspects, while making sure people claim what they are entitled to.
“We made a decision some years ago to invest in a dedicated, professional investigation service when many other councils were cutting back theirs.
“The result has been not only beneficial for Oxford, but it also means we have been able to offer our services to other public bodies.
“This case serves as a warning to fraudsters that we will uncover fraud and deal with it.”
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