False papers earn landlord pounds 25,000

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The Independent Online
There are at least 60 ways to defraud housing benefit, which is unique in that landlords can have benefit paid direct to them. Frauds range from individuals failing to declare earnings to organised fraud by landlords and criminal gangs.

Examples the committee heard include:

A landlord in Haringey, north London, claiming for 21 bedsits of which nine were occupied, but where 52 false identities were found, many for non-existent asylum seekers, some of which included current, stolen, national insurance numbers.

In Kensington and Chelsea, west London, a survey showed eight different companies using the same address. After investigation, 15 per cent of claims were withdrawn. In another case, a landlord received pounds 25,000 by using false documents to claim benefit for tenants he was not housing.

Again in Haringey, a survey of 15 landlords with a total of 1,312 multiple direct payments showed that 278 of the claims, worth over pounds 23,000 a week, were false. At least 11 per cent of each landlord's claims were fraudulent, and in one case two-thirds were. Using the "standard" multiplier of 32 weeks for each false claim detected, almost pounds 750,000 was saved by the exercise.

In Oxford in 1982 in Operation Major, one of the first big housing benefit frauds detected, 254 people were recorded as living in one four-bedroom house on the same evening.

Some organised fraudsters have moved out of London as checks have tightened in the big cities. A housing benefit investigator told of cheques being re-directed to other parts of the country, and even abroad. The MPs want the Post Office to stop re-directing this mail.

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