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‘Hand in your keys - no questions asked’ - month-long amnesty will tackle misused council properties in South Cambridgeshire





A month-long amnesty is being offered to those who are misusing South Cambridgeshire District Council properties, during which they can hand in their keys without facing criminal proceedings.

Titled #DoTheRightThing, the key amnesty will take place throughout February.

From left, Cllr John Batchelor cabinet member for housing, with Cllr Brian Milnes, pictured when 15 energy efficient apartments in Sawston were handed over to the council. Picture: Keith Heppell
From left, Cllr John Batchelor cabinet member for housing, with Cllr Brian Milnes, pictured when 15 energy efficient apartments in Sawston were handed over to the council. Picture: Keith Heppell

It is aimed at:

  • those who have provided false information on application forms for housing;
  • anyone illegally subletting - which can happen when a tenant moves out then rents the property to someone else, usually at a higher rate;
  • anyone involved in right to buy fraud, where people do not meet the criteria to buy their property but make false applications to benefit from a discount;
  • tenants who fail to use the property as the only or principal home; and
  • those who abandon homes without following the proper process.

The council also wants to create an opportunity for people who moved out of council properties to create a family bubble during the Covid pandemic and now wish to remain living with relatives to #DoTheRightThing.

It says if they now realise they no longer require their council home, handing over their keys would enable another family to come out of temporary accommodation or off the housing waiting list.

And anyone who suspects housing fraud is also encouraged to #DoTheRightThing by reporting it to the district council using its online form or by emailing fraud@scambs.gov.uk.

To surrender keys between February 1 and 28, people can visit South Cambridgeshire Hall on Cambourne Business Park (CB23 6EA), placing them in an envelope containing the property address. No more questions will be asked.

Cllr John Batchelor, lead cabinet member for housing, said: “Housing fraud costs those in need a roof over their head and lengthens council waiting lists.

“We know the overwhelming majority of residents live in their homes legally, however, we all have a responsibility to ensure that those in most need can access the limited council housing available.

“So, I’m encouraging people to please make the most of our key amnesty by either handing in keys or reporting people who are known to be illegally in possession of a council home. We are committed to ensuring that council homes are used by those entitled to them.”

Key amnesty campaigns have operated successfully elsewhere in the country and the council says while it cannot know the level of fraud in the district it will consider the scheme a success if even one house is returned for a family in need.

South Cambridgeshire has 5,355 rented council homes.

The council said:

  • It costs an average of £14,000 a year of taxpayers’ money to house a family in temporary accommodation while they wait for a council home.
  • Around 39 per cent of fraud calls to the district council relate to housing fraud.
  • The average duration of housing fraud is three years.
  • The average wait time for a three-bed house is 11 months. This wait time could be reduced if keys are handed in for homes no longer required.

Nationally, housing fraud is said to cost UK taxpayers about £60million a year and is the second largest cause of local government fraud, which deprives families in need.



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