In most cases, a tenant needs their landlord’s consent before they can sublet their home, otherwise they risk breaking the term of their tenancy agreement and on that basis, a private landlord can take action to evict their tenant.
Subletting social housing, on the other hand, is a criminal offence, punishable by hefty fines and prison sentences of up to two years.
So when a tenant pleaded guilty last week to dishonestly subletting her council flat in Leather Lane, west of Hatton Garden in London, it came as little surprise that she was ordered to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work and looks set to be stripped of the unlawful profit she made from illegally subletting the studio flat, which amounts to around £19,000.
Suzie Litanda of Cherry Court, NW5 4AE, pleaded guilty at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court on Thursday 5 October 2017 to twice subletting the flat between December 2013 and February 2016 and July and September 2016. During these periods she was living with her mother in a four bedroom council property, while charging the sub-tenants up to £850 a month in rent.
While recognising mitigating personal circumstances, the court considered the subletting offences under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 to be serious and ordered Litanda to pay £600 costs in addition to the community service.
Camden Council is now issuing civil proceedings to recover the £19,000 profit she made from the illegal sub-letting, which begs the questions, which aren’t private landlords offered the same rights?
Cllr Meric Apak, cabinet member for Better Homes at Camden Council, said: “At a time of widespread calls for a national council house building programme, as many families struggle to find or afford suitable homes, it is both illegal and inexcusable for people to be profiting from subletting council homes that could be used by a family in need.
“I want to assure Camden residents we are committed to building a range of social and affordable housing through our Community Investment Programme and keeping our current council homes out of the hands of profiteers by taking those we suspect of breaking the rules to court.”