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Hundreds of unscrupulous tenants have been caught profiting from council homes they do not need – while thousands of families are stuck in cramped housing.

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More than 350 people have been evicted for subletting council properties since January 2010, according to new figures.

Politicians from both sides of the council chamber condemned those who cash in on desperately-needed social housing, and welcomed a proposed law that could see culprits jailed.

Cllr James Murray, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, said: “Everyone knows there’s a housing crisis and a shortage of affordable housing. I speak to people every day who are living in unsuitable accommodation or homes that are too small for their families.

“That’s why it’s hard to watch people making lots of money out of subletting council homes. It’s an injustice and we have to make sure it doesn’t happen. When we do discover it, we take firm action.”

The council evicted 132 people for the practice in 2012, and 119 in both previous years.

Islington is in the thick of a housing shortage with 13,000 households on the waiting list.

Cllr Terry Stacy, leader of the Lib Dem opposition at Islington Council, said: “The council should have a zero tolerance policy on subletting and I’m glad so many culprits are being caught. There are some people going undetected, but we are catching a good number.”

While not a crime, subletting is a breach of the council’s tenancy conditions. However, a Private Member’s Bill to make the subletting of council or other social housing a criminal offence was passed by the House of Commons in November.

If it becomes law, offenders could be punished with a prison sentence of up to two years and an unlimited fine.

Cllr Stacy added: “It should be a crime because social housing is too rare a commodity for it to be abused.”

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