Tenancy frauds uncovered
Fraud investigations have led to 28 Housing New Zealand tenancies ending in Central Auckland over the past year.
The recently released figures cover the 12 months to June.
In one case the renter sublet their state house after moving to Australia.
The former tenant started living in the property in 2008 when they were a beneficiary.
In October 2011 they told HNZ they were leaving, but then withdrew their notice.
In 2012 a tenancy manager discovered during a property inspection that the tenant had in fact left in 2011 and individually sublet each of the bedrooms in the house.
A relative was managing the tennants and collecting the rent.
A warrant has been issued to arrest the tenant on fraud charges if they return to New Zealand.
HNZ is also trying to recover $30,000 from another Central Auckland person who claimed to be single and on a sickness benefit since 2006.
The person was actually running a successful home business and living with a partner who worked in a skilled trade, despite also claiming to be a sickness beneficiary.
"These cases are the extreme," HNZ investigations manager Bernard Hollewand says.
"The numbers are still very low. We only investigate about 1 per cent of our tenancies nationally."
HNZ has 5100 properties in the Central Auckland area.
Ninety per cent of tenants' rents are subsidised based on their income while a small proportion pay the market rate.
"They are people whose circumstances have changed to the point where they don't need income-based rent any more. We have no interest in them," Mr Hollewand says.
He says cases of fraud come to his team's attention by people ringing the contact centre with information, tenancy managers noticing inconsistencies or through information passed from other departments.
"For instance, the probation service might contact HNZ to get permission for somebody to serve an electronically monitored sentence at an HNZ address and it will be for a person that has never been declared as living at the address."
Once it's found a tenant has been dishonest they can be prosecuted, are required to pay back the amount or rental subsidies they have wrongly received and are not entitled to a state house for a year.
"The big win from our point of view is getting houses back for people who really need them. There are people on the waiting list," Housing Minister Nick Smith says.
"Policy changes in 2008 saw HNZ firm up its approach towards fraud and criminal activity in its properties. While the vast majority of HNZ's 62,000 tenancies on income related rent are in legitimate need of housing, a small minority are rorting the system. I make no apologies for the hard line taken to make sure state housing is freed up for those who actually need it." .
1001 tenants nationally have been evicted as a result of Housing New Zealand fraud investigations since 2008
Four houses were used as methamphetamine labs in the 2012 to 2013 year compared to seven in the previous year
22 per cent of investigations result in no further action and occur because of an honest misunderstanding, mistake or insufficient information being provided
The most common reasons behind fraud cases are tennants not disclosing that they have a partner, not disclosing their income or subletting their home.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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