A social housing tenant who moved out of his home in order to illegally sublet it has been ordered to pay out the amount he made in profit and more.

Michael Robert Ketch originally advertised the spare room of the property in Neville Parade, Newton Aycliffe, for rent but when two people expressed an interest, he moved to another property to make way for them.

Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court heard Ketch charged each tenant £325 per month, the same rent he alone paid to his social housing provider Livin, meaning he was making the same amount in profit for himself. This occurred between 30 March and 30 September last year, during which the 37-year-old pocketed more than £1,500.

Durham County Council’s corporate fraud team began investigating Ketch’s activities in partnership with Livin after staff at the housing provider became suspicious.

Evidence was obtained via bank statements showing the transfer of money into Ketch’s account and, during interview, he admitted that he was living in Bluestone Close in Newton Aycliffe during this period. Ketch accepted that he had breached the terms of his tenancy agreement and that he should not have advertised the rooms for rent or moved out of the property. He stated it was not his intention to make a profit but conceded he had done so.

The court heard that Ketch also submitted an application for a ‘Right to Buy’ purchase during this period in which he claimed the Neville Parade property was his sole or principal place of residence.

And, when he moved out, Ketch claimed council tax reduction he was not entitled to, resulting in an over payment of just under £110 between 30 March and 19 May last year.

Ketch pleaded guilty to breaching his tenancy agreement by subletting or parting with possession of the property and admitted he failed to notify the local authority of a change in his circumstances affecting his council tax entitlement.

The court heard he had no previous convictions and had co-operated fully with the investigation. He also claimed he was unaware he was committing an offence, but this mitigation was dismissed by the district judge.

Ketch was made subject to an Unlawful Profit Order and must pay the court £1,796.30. He was also ordered to pay costs of £600.

Paul Bradly, chief internal auditor and corporate fraud manager at Durham County Council, said: “Subletting social housing is about more than breaching a tenancy agreement, it is about taking away a property from someone who genuinely needs it.

“This prosecution shows that we take such matters incredibly seriously and those who flout the law should expect to face the consequences.”

Members of the public with suspicions about social housing fraud can report them to the council’s corporate fraud team by calling 03000 260000 or emailing corporatefraudteam@durham.gov.uk