Fraudster evicted from illegally sublet council house

The shed John Gallagher lived in while illegally subletting his council house.
The shed John Gallagher lived in while illegally subletting his council house.

A benefits fraudster is to be evicted from the home he was illegally subletting - while living in a shed in the garden himself.

John Gallagher, 65, was jailed for ten months in August, after admitting five counts of fraud that netted him more than £95,000 in rent and benefits.

Gallagher moved into the four-bedroom house in Strode Road, in Fulham, London, about twenty years ago. However, rather than living in it himself, he advertised the rooms on Gumtree and moved into a converted shed in the garden, complete with ensuite bathroom.

He charged his tenants as much as £700 a month, plus £100 for bills. Meanwhile, he claimed thousands in income support, pension credits, housing benefit and council tax benefit.

And his activity was only spotted when a Hammersmith and Fulham council worker was tipped off about an ad for the rooms - and noticed that the phone number given was the same as Mr Gallagher had supplied when applying for a council parking permit.

But while Gallaher has been in prison, the house has been lying empty - and, now the council has been given a possession order and told that it can finally terminate his tenancy.

"We will always pursue cases like this to ensure our housing stock is returned to those who genuinely need it," says Lisa Homan, Hammersmith and Fulham Council's cabinet member for housing.

"Mr Gallagher tried to cheat the system and thanks to great work from our housing and fraud teams, he is now behind bars and a much-needed home can be returned to proper use."

Unlawful subletting of a social housing property became a criminal offence under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013: research had shown that as many as one in five council house tenancies was fraudulent. But it's only this year that the first cases have started to come before the courts.

The Act allows councils to prosecute tenants, leading to a fine of up to £5,000 or imprisonment for up to two years. Courts can also order fraudsters to hand over any profit from the scam back to the council.

£140,000 Benefit Cheat 'Filmed Water-Skiing'
£140,000 Benefit Cheat 'Filmed Water-Skiing'