Cities alleged benefits fraud based on reduced water consumption
Municipalities suspected that people were committing benefits fraud based on low water use, Trouw reported.
Often, when a city suspects that a person claiming benefits is not truthful about their living situation, they use water or gas consumption as evidence.
The average water consumption is around 46 cubic meters annually. "Extreme low water usage" is below seven cubic meters per year, although municipalities already sound the alarm at 15 cubic meters of water usage per year. In these cases, the municipality should provide other evidence of fraud, but this policy is sometimes neglected.
The municipality in Wijnjewoude thought one man on benefits lived at a different address than he was registered at because of his low water and gas consumption. In reality, Henk Helmhout was assisting two disabled women in a nearby town.
Helmhout was ordered to repay three years' worth of benefits, amounting to 35,000 euros. The decision was later appealed in court.
At least eight other people were in the same situation as Helmhout. One woman from Best unjustly had to repay 50,000 euros.
In most cases, people are ordered to repay years worth of benefits, reaching tens of thousands of euros.