Thousands of council tenants who make profits by illegally subletting their homes will face tough new measures to be announced by ministers this week. Subletting fraud is a civil offence punishable by a modest fine and the loss of tenancy. But John Housing Minister John Healey intends to make it a criminal offence so that the courts can recover the profits made. Those convicted could also face larger fines and prison sentences. Mr Healey estimates that up to 200,000 council tenants nationwide are illegally subletting their homes with many fraudulently claiming housing benefit at the same time, costing taxpayers tens of millions of pounds. He said that uncovering illegal subletting could free up at least 20,000 council homes if 10% of unlawful tenants were removed.