Published Tuesday, 24 September 2013
As many as 2,400 homes could be illlegally occupied. (© PA)
Properties are being used by people who are not entitled to them, often by giving false information in a housing application at a cost of around £200m.
Auditor general Kieran Donnelly compared the housing situation in Great Britain to estimate the number of illegally claimed homes in Northern Ireland at up to 2,400.
"Public funded housing occupied by individuals not entitled to be there is illegal, immoral and unacceptable," he said.
"Such fraudulent activity deprives those families most in need of a decent home.
"It also creates additional cost for the taxpayer in providing additional new build and temporary accommodation."
He added: "Tackling tenancy fraud in a proactive manner and bringing existing social housing units back into use is a cost-effective way of addressing a significant housing shortfall in Northern Ireland."
More than 360 properties were recovered in 2011-12, most involving the non-occupation of the property with the registered tenant living elsewhere.
The Housing Executive and associations manages more than 120,000 social housing properties.
According to the Tackling Social Housing Tenancy Fraud report, 40,000 families are on the waiting list at any one time, with around 20,000 being assessed each year as most in need.
The report said that more than £40m providing temporary accommodation since 2008 - around 3,000 families were placed in temporary accommodation last year at a cost of £10.5m.
The report recommended introducing measures among tenants and housing staff, reporting hotlines, employing dedicated tenancy fraud investigators and the use of data matching including the employment of credit reference agencies.
The audit office said public bodies were not sufficiently proactive in tackling fraud.
A DSD spokesman said Minister Nelson McCausland will consider all the recommendations in full.
© UTV News