State house tenants evicted

By Genevieve Helliwell

Dishonest tenants were kicked out of their Western Bay homes after a national investigation found tenants had obtained a state house or taxpayer-subsidised rent by lying about their circumstances.

Housing New Zealand (HNZ) confirmed to the Bay of Plenty Times a number of tenancies in the Western Bay had ended.

A HNZ spokesperson said 17 tenancies in the Western Bay of Plenty area, including Tauranga, were ended in the year to June 30, 2012.

Nationally, 312 tenancies were terminated by HNZ in the same timeframe after the tenants lied about their income and living circumstances.

Housing Minister Phil Heatley said this figure was up from 241 last year and 114 in 2010.

North Island fraudsters made up 285 of that total - while only 27 state house tenancies were found to be fraudulent in the South Island.

Those evicted from their homes included a couple who were running an escort agency from home and lied about their income so they could stay at the property.

The Dunedin couple were prosecuted for income-related fraud, sentenced to 100 hours community work and 12 months supervision and were ordered to repay $7500.

In addition, during the past 12 months HNZ was successful in establishing $9.6 million in Crown debts for overpaid rent subsidies - bringing the total over the past four years to nearly $23.3 million.

``In one recent case the courts ordered the former tenant to repay over $75,000 in rental subsidies. It's very important that we not only end tenancies, but also seek to recover the taxpayer-funded rent subsidies that these people received by knowingly lying about their circumstances,'' Mr Heatley said.

``A state house is not an automatic entitlement and people who deliberately lie about their circumstances are depriving families in real need and receive benefits that they are not entitled to.''

``By freeing up 312 homes in the past 12 months, a total of 709 over the past three years, Housing New Zealand is able to help a significant number of people on the waiting list who desperately need a state house.''

Since July last year Housing New Zealand has successfully prosecuted 120 tenants for fraud.

Sentences for the 120 people convicted included prison sentences (three), home detention/community detention (42), community work (45), reparation only (five), convicted and discharged (four) and awaiting sentence (21).

- Bay of Plenty Times

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