'I had no choice' - Young mum hits back after being handed hefty court bill for Stevenage council flat fraud
PUBLISHED: 13:33 20 January 2016 | UPDATED: 13:33 20 January 2016
A woman who was illegally renting a council flat in Stevenage from her cousin has hit back after being investigated by an anti-fraud team and handed a hefty bill.
Rebecca Siggery, 25, says she moved into the one-bedroom flat in Stevenage after falling pregnant and having her application for a council flat turned down.
Her cousin Paul Skipper, who rented the Archer Road flat from Stevenage Borough Council, agreed to sublet it to her.
But the pair were prosecuted by Herts County Council, which operates a shared anti-fraud service with other councils – including Stevenage.
The flat was seized once the deception was discovered and has already been let to another tenant on the borough council’s waiting list.
Siggery pleaded guilty to one count of fraud by misrepresentation at Stevenage Magistrates’ Court on January 8. She was fined £80 and ordered to pay £1,950 in court costs.
But the mother-of-one hit back after the court hearing, saying she had no other choice.
She said: “Yes, I sublet a property and granted it’s not the ‘correct’ way of obtaining one, but what is the right way?
“When I fell pregnant with my son I approached the council and was told over and over that because I work my only option was to rent privately.
“With maternity leave coming up my wage would have decreased hugely so private renting and bringing up a child would be near impossible.
“It may have been the wrong option to take but for some people at the time it’s the only one.”
Councillor Ann Webb, responsible for housing at the borough council, said: “This investigation shows that we are committed to taking action against people who fraudulently obtain a tenancy.
“We are really pleased that justice has been served as this will allow someone on our housing register to move into the property.”
If you have information on someone illegally letting a council property, call 0300 123 4033.