Should Right to Buy fraud concerns lead to end of scheme UK-wide?

According to reports, around 16% of council homes sold by ten local authorities under the Right to Buy (RTB) scheme, have been to tenants on housing benefit.

Under the scheme which has now been scrapped in Scotland and Wales, researchers contacted 40 councils who have sold off the most homes; of which only ten provided responses. These were Greenwich, Brent, Islington, Newcastle, Dudley, Barking & Dagenham, Waltham Forest, Brighton, Kingston and Westminster.

The provided figures date back to 2012 when the discount on RTB properties was increased by the Government.

From the ten councils that released data, there were 4538 RTB sales, 721 of those being to tenants on housing benefits. Dudley was the council with the greatest amount of sales being to such tenants, with 243 out of 651 being to those on benefits.

Greenwich was behind this with 154, followed by Barking & Dagenham with 114.

Commenting on the often desperate situations of individuals purchasing under the RTB scheme was Giles Beaker. The partner at Anthony Gold Solicitors stated that he had encountered cases where companies had provided funds for tenants but had later evicted them when they took control of the property:

“It is usually people who are in desperate need of money or who are quite vulnerable who are particularly encouraged into these deals.”

As well as being sold to those who are unlikely to afford it in the long run, situations concerning houses bought under the RTB scheme have also included those trying to take advantage of the discount it offers. Previously covered by Today’s Conveyancer were a case in Dagenham and another case in Greenwich, of individuals being found guilty of subletting council properties purchased under RTB whilst residing elsewhere. Instances such as this mean those who were meant to benefit from the scheme, are prevented from doing so.

This view was echoed by councillor Dominic Twomey, in light of a woman fraudulently subletting an RTB property within his county. The deputy leader and cabinet member for finances commented: “Council properties are precious and there for decent law-abiding people, not for greedy fraudsters. I can assure residents we will be remorseless in our pursuit of them to make sure council homes go to those who have the right to live in one.”

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