Crawley woman prosecuted for trying to fraudulently claim council home

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A Broadfield woman has been successfully prosecuted by Crawley Borough Council for trying to fraudulently claim a council home.

Pheonah Zhitonge, 28, of Seddon Court, Broadfield, made a false application to join the council’s housing register in April 2012 on the basis that she was a single homeless person.

“Demand for council housing is high; there are more than 2,000 households on the waiting list. “This is why our Fraud Team thoroughly investigates applications to ensure that our housing is allocated to those who need it the most.”

Cllr Stephen Joyce

Applicants are required by law to complete the form truthfully and accurately.

Zhitonge declared she was homeless and staying with her sister, sleeping on her sofa at an address in Langley Green, which she also stated was her postal address.

Zhitonge subsequently updated her housing application several times, indicating that her circumstances were unchanged. The last update was in July 2014 when she stated that she still had no fixed abode but was now staying four nights per week in Langley Green and the occasional night with friends in Seddon Court, Broadfield.

An investigation undertaken by Fraud Officers from the council led to evidence being obtained that showed Miss Zhitonge was living at Seddon Court as her main residence and postal address.

It was confirmed that Miss Zhitonge was renting a room in the house and had been living at that address for two years and not living in Langley Green.

She did not declare this information to Crawley Borough Council and therefore her housing application was considered false.

Zhitonge pleaded guilty at Worthing Magistrates’ Court on March 13 to making a false application and for withholding information. She was convicted and sentenced to a fine of £150, ordered to pay £1,070.50 costs and a £20 victim surcharge. She has been removed from the housing register.

The Audit Commission estimates that the loss incurred by the council if someone making a false application is housed in one of its properties would be about £18,000. This is due to the cost of another housing applicant being placed in bed and breakfast accommodation.

Cllr Stephen Joyce, Cabinet member for Housing, said: “Demand for council housing is high; there are more than 2,000 households on the waiting list.

“This is why our Fraud Team thoroughly investigates applications to ensure that our housing is allocated to those who need it the most.”