Tracing owners of empty properties: GDPR - a concern for Empty Homes Practitioners?

At Fraser and Fraser, we are strongly committed to supporting Empty Homes Practitioners as they work to Bring Empty Homes Back Into Use. This usually involves us tracing absent owners and reporting their whereabouts to the EHO who’s asked for our help or, where the owner has passed away, identifying and tracing the executors or next-of-kin of the deceased owner so the property can go through probate and be brought back into use. Necessarily this involves the EHO sharing the relevant data with us - the address of the property and whatever is known about the owner. A common question to us is “WHAT ABOUT GDPR?”

Everything we do complies with GDPR: we always recommend to EHOs that they consider our GDPR-compliant data sharing agreement. This establishes the Council as data controller and ourselves as data processor and sets out the purpose of sharing the data: Bringing Empty Homes Back Into Use, which is a task in the public interest and therefore an exception to GDPR. Where a property owner is known to have passed away, GDPR is not an issue - it does not apply to the data of deceased persons. The authority for this is found in Recital 27 of the Regulation (i.e. GDPR itself). Recital 27 says: “This Regulation does not apply to the personal data of deceased persons. Member States may provide for rules regarding the processing of personal data of deceased persons.” NB the UK has not provided any such rules so it simply doesn’t apply.

We recently ran a webinar on this subject featuring a solicitor who specialises in GDPR and Lorraine Moore, EHO at Fenland DC, kindly made a very useful contribution too - you can view the recording here, together with our other webinars. The feedback has been very encouraging - I hope you find them interesting and useful. Meanwhile, please contact if you’d like further information or to discuss GDPR-compliant data sharing.


Nick Beetham

Fraser and Fraser