Subletting council tenant found guilty
A student who illegally sublet her Stonebridge flat while studying and working in Bristol has had the book thrown at her in court.
Kusheema Nurse did not tell Brent Housing Partnership, which manages council housing on behalf of the Brent Council, that she had moved out of her council flat on Mordaunt Road after gaining a place at university in Bristol to study Law.
Twenty six year old Ms Nurse was given the one bedroom flat by the council in August 2010 – two months after secretly starting a part time job 120 miles away in Bristol.
In June 2014 Nurse’s sub-tenant approached BHP to complain about being evicted without notice and told us that he had been renting the property from Ms Nurse since April 2011. Although she had not given him a tenancy agreement or receipts for his rent payments, he had redecorated the entire flat at his own expense.
An investigation by the council’s Fraud Team found that Ms Nurse had started her Law degree at the University of the West of England in Bristol in September 2011 and had been employed in part time jobs in Bristol between 2010 and 2013. Further investigation fouund that a young woman was rescued from the flat by the Fire Brigade in February 2014 after a small fire broke out. The woman – a friend of the subtenant – did not know Ms Nurse, who failed to report the fire to BHP.
When interviewed under caution and asked for an explanation, Ms Nurse chose not to comment.
She was prosecuted at Harrow Crown Court for offences under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 and the Fraud Act 2006. Nurse claimed in court that she travelled to Bristol on a daily basis and continued to live full time at her Mordaunt Road flat. The jury did not believe her and found her guilty, with the judge sentencing her to 130 hours of community service, adjourned for three months to allow her to take her final university exams.
It’s hoped that the prosecution – Brent’s first under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act – will serve as a warning to other council tenants who are illegally profiting from their social housing.
The Fraud Team works closely with BHP, which has recently launched a crackdown on tenants thought to be subletting. As part of the campaign both BHP staff and residents are being asked to be vigilant.
BHP is now in the process of repossessing the property from Ms Nurse.
Cllr Harbi Farah, Brent Council’s Lead Member for Housing, said: “Subletting social housing isn’t just selfish – it’s illegal. It clogs up desperately needed accommodation while lining the pockets of people who falsely claim to be in need. Brent Council and BHP will be relentless in our pursuit of fraudsters like Ms Nurse, ensuring that council homes go to those who have the right to live in one.”