Illegal subletting of council homes is on the rise – and council chiefs have warned of a crackdown.

Brighton and Hove City Council has reported receiving dozens of tip-offs about people profiting from public properties in the last six months.

It comes as more people are looking to make money out of the economic downturn, which has seen unemployment and homelessness rise.

But the local authority, which has 11,500 homes and more than 12,000 people on its housing waiting list, slammed the practice of renting out rooms adding it took the issue “very seriously”.

Conservative councillor Dawn Barnett said: “I have sympathy for people who have a spare room and are maybe looking for some income or those who do not have a place to stay.

“If they were to report it to the council and do it all legally then there’s not a problem.

“But they’re not and they’re cheating the taxpayer.

“It’s all wrong and we need to start clamping down on it.”

Fraud team

Recent figures show about 70% of all suspected cases reported |to the council’s fraud team this year relate to potential housing fraud.

The local authority added 94 people were investigated for housing tenancy fraud in 2011/12.

Coun Barnett said she was aware of at least three cases in her own ward of Hangleton and Knoll.

A council spokeswoman said: “We are pursuing robust action against a number of tenants where we believe subletting has taken place.

“Tenants who sublet their properties run the risk of losing their tenancies.

“There is a shortage of council housing in Brighton and Hove and a long list of those waiting for homes.

“It is not fair or right for those allocated council housing to commit tenancy fraud and it is an issue we take very |seriously.”

It comes as research recently conducted by the Audit Commission estimates that the scale of housing tenancy fraud is increasing.

A private members bill currently going through Parliament is likely to criminalise housing tenancy fraud.

Estimates from the Department of Communities and Local Government suggest that between 50,000 and 160,000 social homes are unlawfully occupied across the country.

To report cases email or call 01273 291700.

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