Social housing tenancy fraud costs tax payer over £2bn

12 Sept 2011, London, UK:  New research by Experian Public Sector today reveals that the threat of social housing tenancy fraud in the UK could be significantly larger than previously thought.


Based on an initial analysis of 125,000 social housing arrangements at just ten UK local authorities and housing associations in both rural and urban areas, Experian Public Sector’s experts estimate that potential fraudulent occupancy of social housing, such as subletting, could exist at a minimum of 157,077 properties[1] when extrapolated up across the rest of the UK.


The Audit Commission estimated the level of tenancy fraud at 50,000 properties in 2009[2] but Experian Public Sector’s analysis suggests that the figure could now be at least three times higher than this.


The preliminary findings follow a series of data matching exercises which analysed social housing tenancy lists at ten UK local authorities and housing associations. The analysis looked for data that might suggest subletting and warrant further investigation. This involved the use of compliant information to identify a range of fraud indicators, including the number of tenants not currently occupying their tenancy address and found living at another address.


The analysis indicates that potential fraud, such as subletting, could exist within a minimum of 3.1 per cent of social properties. When extrapolated nationally, based on 5.06 million social properties, this suggests potential fraud could exist at a minimum of 157,077 properties in the UK.


If all of these social properties were subject to fraudulent activity and made available to people currently in temporary accommodation, the reduced cost and saving to the tax payer would be in excess of £2.0 billion[3] a year. Freeing up existing social housing means reduced waiting lists which could also mean fewer new social properties need to be built.


Nick Mothershaw, Experian’s director of Fraud and Identity Solutions, commented: “Our initial research suggests that the level of social housing tenancy fraud in Britain could be much higher than previously estimated. It also demonstrates how more effective data matching can quickly provide a reliable indication of what could be illegal occupancy and subletting. This means investigators can prioritise and deal swiftly with fraudulent cases. Reducing social housing tenancy fraud will significantly reduce the cost of temporary accommodation which we estimate to be at over £2 billion a year.”


This is preliminary research based on a sample of just ten social housing providers. Experian Public Sector will provide a revised estimate of potential fraud over the next few months as more social housing tenancy lists are analysed.




For further information please contact:

Bruno Rost, Experian, 07967567012; email



Social housing tenancy fraud is the use of social housing by someone not entitled to occupy that home. It includes unauthorised sub-letting of a property (or part of the property) for profit to individuals not allowed to live there by the conditions of the tenancy. It includes submitting false information in a housing application to gain a tenancy (misrepresentation of circumstances or identity), and wrongful succession where the property is no longer occupied by the original tenant (including ‘key selling’) and non occupation by the tenant as their principal home.

The Audit Commission in its ‘Protecting the Public Purse’ paper issued in September 2009 estimated that £500m each year is lost through tenancy fraud. This was based on an estimate of 50,000 social properties where fraud was evident.

Providing temporary accommodation to those in need is a legal responsibility of all local authorities in the UK and provides a unique set of challenges. According to the Audit Commission there are around 80,000 people in temporary accommodation at a cost of over £1billion per annum.

Experian Public Sector’s tenancy checker uses data matching and analytics to confirm whether tenants are living at the property, have moved without informing the council and potentially subletting. Experian can validate the number of residents believed to be living in a property, check for deceased names and check if duplicate names or details exist across LA allocated social housing by comparing social housing providers’ lists. Experian Public Sector can also provide data to support fraud investigations and check names against lists of known and convicted fraudsters using Experian’s Specified Anti Fraud Organisation (SAFO) status.


About Experian

Experian is the leading global information services company, providing data and analytical tools to clients in more than 80 countries. The company helps businesses to manage credit risk, prevent fraud, target marketing offers and automate decision making. Experian also helps individuals to check their credit report and credit score, and protect against identity theft.

Experian plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN) and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 index. Total revenue for the year ended 31 March 2011 was US$4.2 billion. Experian employs approximately 15,000 people in 41 countries and has its corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, with operational headquarters in Nottingham, UK; California, US; and São Paulo, Brazil. 

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[1] Preliminary research analysed social housing tenancy lists at just ten local authorities and housing providers in a mix of urban and rural areas. Additional files will be added over time and the estimates will be revised so at this stage the lowest minimum estimates are cited. The research showed strong supporting evidence of potential fraud at a minimum of 3.1 per cent of social properties. When extrapolated, based on total housing stock of 5.06 million, this would suggest potential fraud at a minimum of 157,077 properties.


[2] In its 2009 report entitled ‘Protecting the Public Purse’, Audit Commission estimated social housing tenancy fraud in 50,000 properties. 

[3] Savings are calculated using an estimated cost of £18,000 per annum for temporary accommodation. This is the aggregate cost based on estimates provided by housing providers in both rural and urban areas.