A Ribchester woman claimed she was paying rent to her dad for the house she was living in, even though she was the registered owner.
Blackburn magistrates heard 37-year-old Shelly Elizabeth Kearns received housing and council tax benefits in excess of £14,476 as a result of the fraud. But the magistrates urged Ribble Valley Borough Council to pursue her father for the overpayment.
“Because it is him and not the defendant who has benefitted, it is only right the council should look into this,” said the chairman of the bench.
Kearns, of Preston Road, Ribchester, pleaded guilty to failing to reveal she owned the Ribchester property with a view to obtaining housing benefit and council tax.
Two further charges were withdrawn. They were both of making false statements with a view to obtaining benefit – firstly stating that Sean Kearns, of Redwoods, Whitehalgh Lane, Langho – was her landlord, and secondly that she was the tenant of the property with a rent of £650 a month.
Kearns was given a conditional discharge for 12 months and ordered to pay £250 towards prosecution costs. The court heard she was already paying off the £14,000 overpayment.
Maira Hill (prosecuting) said Kearns submitted a claim for benefits which didn’t reveal she owned the house, claimed her father was the landlord and provided a tenancy agreement to support her claim.
Jonathan Taylor (defending) said it was a complex situation which had gone on for a number of years. He said his client’s father had purchased the house.
“He made it clear the house was his, but it was in her name,” said Mr Taylor. “He rented the house to other people over the period of time as well as to his daughter. She finds herself in front of the court not because of anything dishonest, but because of an oversight in filling in the forms.”
Mr Taylor said the house was technically in her name, but she could not benefit from it while her father was alive.
“The only person who has benefitted is her father,” said Mr Taylor. “She accepts she has not completed the form correctly and she should have taken responsibility for that.”