1. Introduction.

2. Tenancy Fraud

3. Benefit Fraud

4. How to refer a case & what to include in a referral.

5. How to contact us.

1. Introduction

Bolton at Home, Bolton Community Homes & Bolton Council hasagreed to jointly investigate tenancy and benefit fraud. Tenancy fraud is often linked to other criminal activitiesincluding benefit fraud, anti-social behavior, identity fraud, credit fraud, the sex trade and drug cultivation.

The aim of this desk aid is to assist you in identifyingsigns that could indicate tenancy and benefit fraud arebeing committed. As your job role involves regular contact with tenants, you often get to see and hear what is happening within local communities. Your help is vitally important in detecting fraudsters and in making a referralso we can investigate.

Ultimately it is hoped that afraudulent tenancy will be relinquished, so it can be reallocated to a rightful tenant. For successful benefit fraud investigations the tenant may be given a sanction such as a caution or an administrative penalty or legal action could be taken against them.

2. Tenancy Fraud

There are numerous types of tenancy fraud; the main ones are listed below with tell-tale signs of what to look for –

  • Sub-letting – The tenant is renting the whole property to another person/s for a profit or otherwise. When you visit is the supposed tenant never at the property? Does the occupant always make excuses regarding the tenant’s whereabouts or refer to the tenant as their “landlord”? Arethere any internal doors locked that could potentially hide incriminating evidence? Are there any items in the property that do not match the supposed household make-up i.e. children’s toys, female belongings when only a male should be resident etc. or is there unopened mail addressed to the occupant placed in a pile to one side?
  • Not Principle Home – The tenant is residing at another property most of the time and may only return to check for mail etc. Is the tenant never in when you visit? Are the wheelie bins always empty? Is there a build-up of mail behind the front door? Are there any signs of movement/change since the last visit i.e. are the curtains always closed? If you manage to gain access on a planned visit, is it obvious there is any sign of the property being lived in i.e. lack of furniture, lack of personal possessions or lack of food in the cupboards and fridge?
  • Key Selling – The tenant sells the keys to the property for a one off payment. This may be difficult to uncover, however if the same officer who signs the tenant up makes follow up visits is there a different occupant in the property? Are their advertisements in the local area looking for tenancies to buy?
  • Running a Business – The tenant is running a business from the property without consent and that can cause damage to the property or cause a nuisance to neighbours. Have there been any adaptations made to the house to accommodate a business? Is there any damage to the property or communal area’s as a result of a business being run from the property? Are there several vehicles at the property as if they are running a car garage?
  • Using False Information – A potential tenant could give false information to obtain a property. This may only come to light after the tenant has gained a property. Are there any discrepancies in the tenant’s story at the sign up stage? Is it clear from information they give that they were in fact not homeless?
  • Right to Buy/Acquire Fraud – Tenants can give false information to ensure they qualify to purchase the property. Is the tenant using the property as their main residence up to the purchase of the property? Are their signs they are going to rent the property to other persons once the sale goes through?

3. Benefit Fraud

More often than not you’ll know when housing benefit has been awarded to a tenant. Itcouldbe credited directly to therent account or you may receive notification letter from Bolton Council advising of anentitlement.

There are several ways a tenant may commitbenefit fraud, the main ones are listed below with some tipsto look out for –

  • Income related fraud - The true income coming into the household isn’t declared. This includes undeclared working (this could relate to the tenant, their partner or any non-dependants). Do you regularly see one or more occupants wearing a company uniform, logoed clothing, a company ID badge or driving a company vehicle? Who is working and what company they are working for? It would be very unlikely that the tenant would be awarded the full rate of housing benefit if they or their partner is working.
  • Capital related fraud.- The tenant/their partner fail to declare their true savings, investments and properties.Take notice of a tenant who appears to have a lavish lifestyle or is paying for costly home improvements themselves. (These may be authorised or unauthorised improvements).
  • Household member fraud - Undeclared partner/non dependants are living in the property. If a number of adults reside in the property [and appear to be working], but most or all of the rent is being paid by housing benefit it is possible that not all household members have been declared.
  • Tenancy & residency related fraud - The property has been sublet and benefit is being paid in respect of the original tenant or the tenant is not residing in the property/has absconded and failed to notify of a change of address.Signs of an empty property include someone calling regularly to collect mail only, no furniture in the property, curtains that remain open or closed, windows have newspaper or windowlene on then constantly, a light is left on 24/7, or there are never any lights on, wheelie bins aren’t put out on collection day, mail building up behind the door, there is very little usage of a key fob etc.?
  • Failure to report changes in circumstances – The tenant fails to advise when their circumstances change and the housing benefit award remains unchanged. This could include another household member moving in, an increase in income or capital,you may become aware that the tenant has won the lottery or received a large inheritance.
  • Collusion – This is when the tenant plots with others to commit fraud. It can include subletting and key selling when all parties are aware of the arrangement and that benefit is being paid.It is often difficult to prove as there could be no physical evidence of the conspiracy and you are reliant on one person’s word against another.

Please don’t quiz the tenant directly about any suspicion of benefit fraud, this could tip them off or cause them to change their routine.

As well as the aforementioned types of tenancy and housing benefit fraud, remain open minded to more general factors, for example -

  • A tenant may be using fake or multiple identities. Is there a query over any evidence provided as proof of ID or the ID does not match with details already held in the system?
  • Returned mail could indicate that the tenant has moved on.
  • If you ring a landline does the answer phone message indicate there is a business being run from the premises?
  • Being continually unable to access a property, with or without an appointment thisincludes staff from your own organisation, contractors or utility companies etc.
  • Continual failure to respond to correspondence from yourself or other officials.
  • Tenants in adjacent properties report repairs to their property, which have occurred as a result of a problem within another property. The original problem remains unreported however.
  • Observations on CCTV, including what you don’t see, but would expect to see, e.g. others regularly entering a property instead of the tenant, a tenant calling and leaving with mail, but never entering the property with provisions such as food shopping.
  • Information from neighbours, the police or the local newspaper.
  • Reports of the property being used by youths or others to socialise in.
  • Are children supposed to reside at the property, but there are no signs of them as well as their parent/s?
  • A right to buy applicant has received full Housing Benefit historically. Where has the money come from to buy a property/obtain a mortgage?

4. How to Refer a Case and What to Include in the Referral

We need your help in tackling tenancy fraud and housing benefit fraud. Any information you provide will be used in the strictest confidence. Complete the referral form located at (Each organisation to insert details here of where the fraud referral form is located).

It is important that you include as much information as possible on your referral. Please don’t assume the investigator has the same knowledge you have, they won’t.

  • State why you believe a fraud is being committed.
  • If you have made some enquiries already, provide details of what you have established.
  • If a third party has given you information, tell us this, we will consider whether it would be relevant to contact them.
  • Having names & descriptions of the residents, includingthe dates & times of their routines and any car details (make,model, colour & registration) are often a vital starting point for the Investigator.
  • If someone is working and you know where, tell us.
  • Also, if they are living with another person and you know who and where let us know.
  • If they are living a lavish life style, tell us about it, e.g. new cars, holidays etc.
  • If you know the person is violent, please include this too.

We do not expect you to know whether there is definitely any fraudthat is for us to establish during the investigation.

5. How to Contact Us

If you are unsure about your suspicions and would like to speak to a fraud specialist, telephone or email the contacts below -

Bolton at Home & Bolton Community Homes 01204 335431

Housing Benefit Investigations 01204 328200

Email: or

Produced by Carol Walker (Counter Fraud Manager – Bolton Council) &

Gareth Lord (Housing Project Officer Fraudulent Tenancies – Bolton at Home)

January 2012.