£35k tenant cheat claimed wife was sister as Bedford flat stayed empty for four years

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A cheating tenant who claimed his wife was his SISTER in order to get a housing association flat has been hit with a £35,000 punishment.

The man, who lived out of the area, told bpha he needed local housing urgently so he could help care for his disabled sister.

He said his sister lived in a village just outside Bedford.

The man was given a flat near Bedford town centre, for which he promptly claimed housing benefit and council tax reduction from Bedford Borough Council.

But, in fact the flat stayed empty for four years – while the man was living in his wife’s house.

This week a council spokesman said: “Investigations showed the tenant had actually been living with the female he described as his “sister” the whole time and that the female was in fact his wife.”

The council became suspicious in 2016 when they received information that the town centre flat was unoccupied. Officers from the borough’s investigation service launched a scrutiny and uncovered the web of lies.

They discovered the flat had been empty from the grant of the tenancy in 2011 until 2015, when it appeared a young male started using the property.

CCTV footage identified the young man as the son of the tenant.

Officers questioned the tenant, who admitted to not living at the property for a period of time.

He claimed the false information given regarding his relationship with his wife was a “simple mistake” and had not been done deliberately.

The case did not go to court, although it was a fraud, and instead the tenant agreed a settlement with the council.

He received a formal caution, agreed to return the keys of the property to bpha and pay the costs of the investigation, which totalled £1,240.

The council spokesman said: “He also accepted he received an overpayment of housing benefit and council tax reduction of £34,151.31, which he has agreed to repay.”

It is not known how long the man has been given to repay the money.