City imposes fines for illegal subletting of council homes

Offending tenants could face big penalties under housing fraud prevention plan announced last Thursday.

Subletting places pressure on the housing market, according to the city council  Beeld ANP
Subletting places pressure on the housing market, according to the city councilBeeld ANP

The city warned last summer that it planned to crack down on illegal subletting, especially in cases of what it called “perverse self-enrichment”, in which tenants profit from renting out property that doesn’t belong to them.

The penalty has been provisionally set at €3,250, and may be as high as €13,500 if the tenant makes a profit. The fine for a repeat offence within three years is €5,000, and for a second repeat offence during this period it is €20,500.

In the past, any penalties were imposed by housing associations, with tenants often having their leases terminated so that they went back to the bottom of the waiting list.

New approach needed

The city pointed out that subletting places pressure on the housing market because it reduces tenant turnover and means apartments are not available to those who actually need them. Housing associations also frown on illegal subletting because it often creates poorly maintained and unsafe properties.

Another problem is that tenants may receive benefits they’re not entitled to, because they’re still registered at their old address. The city has reinforced its new strategy by telling housing associations how to identify this form of fraud more effectively.

Legal subletting

It’s not always against the law to rent out your council home. For example, it may be acceptable if you go abroad to work or study, take a long holiday, go to live with someone else on a trial basis for up to three months, or spend up to a year in prison. Subletting for more than one year is not allowed, and permission must be obtained from the housing corporation; otherwise, it’s illegal.

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