HNZ blitz on tenant fraud
A warning shot has been fired at Housing New Zealand tenants who aren't being truthful with the organisation.
"If they value the roof over their heads then they need to be honest with us," the corporation's fraud investigations manager Bernard Hollewand says.
He leads a team of 16 that investigates fraud across Housing NZ's 62,000 properties.
The unit has helped free up 1001 homes across New Zealand since 2008, including 235 in South Auckland.
They follow leads from tenancy managers, anonymous tip-offs, other government agencies and inconsistent information from tenants themselves.
Despite the unit's 95 percent success rate, Mr Hollewand says the number of cases investigated make up less than 1 percent of the agency's rentals.
But in the past year alone $11 million in rent rorts were uncovered and 129 convictions served.
"Every application form is rich in information about what has to be declared. One of the basic requirements of people applying for rent subsidies is if they are dishonest we will terminate the tenancy."
Last year investigators busted a South Auckland tenant who was a shareholder of a registered company in the security industry.
The person's partner was also a shareholder and director.
The pair enjoyed overseas travel and had undeclared term deposits. They eventually skipped the country leaving a debt of more than $100,000.
Another South Auckland tenant was prosecuted and owes the corporation $112,000 after investigators found they had sublet the place for three years and failed to declare income and a live-in partner.
Housing Minister Nick Smith says the fraud unit's efforts have freed up homes for families in genuine need.
"While the vast majority of Housing New Zealand's 62,000 tenancies on income-related rent are in legitimate need of housing, a small minority are rorting the system," he says.
"I make no apologies for the hard line taken to make sure state housing is freed up for those who actually need it.
"State houses are heavily subsidised by other taxpayers and tenants abuse this support when they are dishonest about their living situation or income, or use the home for criminal activity like drug manufacturing."
Mr Smith promised the government's social housing reforms would make it tougher for tenants to commit fraud as agencies shared information.
"Many of the people defrauding Housing New Zealand were also committing benefit fraud and it makes sense for both sorts of financial assistance to be considered together."
Ninety per cent of Housing NZ tenants get subsidised rent based on their income.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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