The London Borough of Tower Hamlets has recovered a council home and £105,000 after a former resident was sentenced earlier this month in relation to two charges of housing fraud.
At Snaresbrook Crown Court Khaleda Begum, who withheld information to illegally obtain and attempt to buy a social housing property, received a 16 months suspended prison sentence and 40 hours of unpaid work. She was also ordered to pay the council’s prosecution costs of £5,802 and a victim surcharge of £100.
Tower Hamlets has also recovered £105,000 from Begum to compensate for the additional costs the council faced by having to pay for temporary housing for families not able to access an available social housing home.
In November 2002, Begum applied to join the Tower Hamlets housing list and indicated that she had no interest in any residential property. She also signed the declaration that she understood it was her responsibility to notify of any changes to her circumstances which might affect her priority for social housing.
However, on 17 February 2006, she became the joint owner of a four-bedroom, two-bathroom property in Ilford, Essex purchased for £337,500. She failed to disclose this at the time and when in June that same year, she viewed and signed a tenancy agreement for a social housing property in Collingwood House, Whitechapel.
The second charge was that on 14 March 2016, when applying to buy the social housing property that had been allocated to her in June 2006, she failed to disclose that the property was not her only or principal home.
Begum was interviewed under caution in June 2017 and later returned the keys to the council home.
She pleaded guilty to the two counts of housing fraud at Thames Magistrates Court on December 5 2019, ahead of the sentencing hearing at Snaresbrook Crown Court.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “As a borough with a population growing at a faster rate than the rest of the country, availability of good quality and affordable social housing is a major issue for local families in housing need.
“Had Ms Begum been honest about her own home ownership in the declarations she was obliged to make, it is unlikely that she would have been given a council property at the expense of a resident or family who really needed a secure home.”
Cllr Sirajul Islam, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “This case highlights the fact that housing fraud is not a victimless crime, especially when we have 20,000 people on our housing list. I’m pleased that we have managed to recover more than £105,000 to reflect the costs we face as a council placing families in temporary accommodation.
“Congratulations to the team involved and through their hard work we clearly show that we make regular checks and we do catch and prosecute those who break the law.”