HOUSING bosses in Chorley have welcomed proposals to make tenancy fraud a criminal offence.

Under the plans, ministers have suggested that tenants who move out of their home and hand the keys to someone else could face a prison term and a fine of up to £50,000.

Chorley Community Housing said the move is designed to stop the problem of tenancy cheats charging market rents on low cost homes and pocketing the difference whilst sometimes also committing benefit fraud.

Presently, landlords can only take court action to recover the property and have no power to make the tenant pay back any profit they may have made in committing the fraud.

CCH, which last year ran a Catch A Cheat programme in partnership with Chorley Council and other housing associations in the town, say the proposal is a major step forward.

Richard Houghton, director of operations at CCH, said: “These proposals will hopefully act as a deterrent to anyone thinking that committing tenancy fraud is a good idea. At the moment, some people may see it as a victimless crime.

“That the Government is minded to legislate on this issue shows that it isn't.”