FOI request

Hi,

anyone else get something like this  . . .

Dear FOI Team,

Please could you supply a current and up-to-date list of all of the empty domestic properties within the Carlisle City Council jurisdiction. I would like to know the full address, the length of time that the property has been empty for, and whether there is a known/registered owner (though I do not require any personal information). Also, if there is any other information routinely captured relating to the empty properties then I would be interested to know this also - for example the number or bedrooms or the council tax band.

I do not require the information in a specific format but it would be helpful if you could send it electronically as an Excel spreadsheet.

Please let me know if you require any further information to aid in your search.

Kind regards Perrie Routledge

 

Forums: 
FOI, data protection etc

I've received several over the last few weeks, this was the most detailed request though:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Under the Freedom of Information Act can I ask for the following information from your authority:

 

  • How many empty homes has your authority registered as vacant in the financial year 2015/2016. 
  • How many of those properties have lay vacant for over a) two years b) five years and c) ten years
  • In the year 2016-2017 how many of those homes have been brought into use? By that I mean is now occupied?
  • How many Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOS) has your authority used in the last five years?   

I should prefer to receive these in electronic format at this email address.

It would be helpful if you were to provide any brief notes which might be necessary to understand the context of the information provided, although I recognise that you are not obliged to do this. If for any reason you feel this request is unclear, please do not hesitate to contact me at xxxxx xxxxxx.

If the information requested contains sections of confidential information, please blank out or remove these sections, and mark clearly that they have been removed.

Thank you for your help.
 

Hi

This is a request that used to be asked quite often.

Generally they are refused based on a couple of grounds.  One being that addresses owned by private indivduals could not be included at all, not just without the owners info.  Another reason is that the information is not given out on the grounds of empty properties being a target for things such as ASB, arson, vandalism and other criminal behaviour such as drugs etc.  You have no idea for what purposes they want this information and so all requests get treated the same.

If you google it you will probably find some good responses from other Councils in respect of this and also possibly on some previous threads on here.

In this instance it also sounds like they want a lot of information which could also take a lot of time.

 

If it is just figures as in the first response then we have answered them but refused lists of addresses.

Julia

I agree with Julia - anything asking for figures I will answer, anything asking for addresses/names etc then I refuse under Data Protection.

I do understand the issue and the rules.  If however someone is looking for information to assist in bringing empty homes faster back into use, does that not benefit both parties?  I have been thinking of something like a pre-qualification as a service partner for legitimate people trying to make a difference?  Just a thought?

 

Hi, Perrie.

We used to get these requests fairly regularly and we responded for the grounds as set out by others, such as crime and asb. The last enquiry our FoI Team received was last year and we provided teh following detailed response, which you may wish to consider using.

Your request for information has now been considered. Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council cannot supply all the information you have requested for the reasons set out below.

Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) places two duties on public authorities. Unless exemptions apply, the first duty at Section 1(1)(a) is to confirm or deny whether the information specified in a request is held. The second duty at Section 1(1)(b) is to disclose information that has been confirmed as being held.

Where exemptions are relied upon Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 requires that we provide the applicant with a notice which:

  1. States the fact,
  2. Specifies the exemption in question and
  3. States (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies:

In relation to this particular request, the following exemptions apply;

Section 31 (1) (a) – Prevention of crime

We do not publish information that could indicate vacant properties as we consider that this information is exempt under Section 31(1) (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Under section 31(1) (a) of the FOI Act an exemption applies where disclosure would be likely to prejudice the prevention and detection of crime.

The disclosure of the information would be likely to prejudice the prevention of crime as it would highlight addresses of empty properties and make them more vulnerable to squatting, associated crime and other forms of criminal activity including but not limited to criminal damage, extraction of electricity and the stripping of empty properties and would increase the social and economic costs in these areas as a result.

While debating if the use of this exemption is applicable we have considered the public interest test.

Reasons for withholding

  • There is a strong public interest in avoiding the likely prejudice to the prevention of crime.
  • Tackling these types of crimes would involve a significant strain on public expense and it is in the public interest to ensure that public resources are used cost-effectively.
  • The public interest in avoiding damage to property
  • The potential for indirect consequences of crime, for example the impact on neighbouring properties of crimes perpetrated on the empty properties

Reasons for disclosing

  • To release the information would be in the spirit of openness and transparency in which the Council operates.
  • The need to bring empty properties back into use.

Balance

Whilst Rotherham MBC recognise the need to bring empty properties back into use, there is an inherent public interest in preventing crime from being committed and ensuring the efficient use of public and police resources. The Council therefore considers in this case that the public interest favors withholding the requested information.

I hope that this is helpful should you receive further requests.

Regards,

Paul Benson

Private Sector Housing Co-ordinator

Strategic Housing

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council