Tenants in St Albans, who are illegally subletting their homes have been warned to stop, otherwise face possible legal action.

Hightown Praetorian & Churches Housing Association has issued this warning following a recent case concerning a St Albans home, after an anonymous tip off by a neighbour who didn’t recognise the person living there brought this to light.

An investigation found that the tenant was renting the property out privately to a man who believed he was legitimately renting it.

On finding out that he had no legal right to live there he moved out and the housing association was able to re-let the home to a person in genuine housing need.

Hightown Chief Executive David Bogle said: "There is currently real pressure on the supply of social housing and our homes are needed for people in genuine housing need. I would urge any Hightown tenant who is illegally sub-letting their home to take advantage of this amnesty and to contact us.

"We know that the overwhelming majority of our residents live in their homes legally and support a fair system for allocating scarce affordable housing. I would encourage anyone who suspects someone of committing tenancy fraud to let us know."

Tenants are being encouraged to come forward and return their keys, along with a letter giving notice before the amnesty runs out at the end of February.

The initiative is in response to the introduction of the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013, which makes it a criminal offence for social housing tenants to sublet their properties.

Illegal sub-letters can now face a prison sentence of up to two years, a criminal record, or a fine of up to £50,000.

On average, every property lost to tenancy fraud costs £18,000 - roughly the cost to a local authority of housing a homeless family in temporary accommodation when no social properties are available.

Tenants wishing to report somebody who may be illegally subletting their home should contact 07768 286694 or email fraud@hpcha.org.uk.