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Personal Landlord Data – PCC Do The Right Thing (Finally)

GDPR

Members will know that we have been campaigning for the past 8 years to convince Portsmouth City Council (PCC) to stop sharing HMO landlords private addresses and contact details with any one who asks. We have had some successes, but also recent setbacks – but the good news is that PCC finally seem to have got the message and are fulfilling their duty to protect our personal data.

PCC Quote: "disclosure would cause us to breach the First Principle of the Data Protection Act. On this basis, we are unable to disclose this information as part of your request"  Thank You PCC!

What Is The Issue?

PCC are required by law to keep a register of those who own or manage properties which are required to be licensed and this needs to include contact details. This is logical – if there is an issue with an HMO in the city, the council, the affected neighbour or anyone else needs to be able to identify and contact the owner.

We have never had a problem with this and have always agreed that we want to be contacted and involved if anyone has an issue with one of our properties.

However, there are a lot of people who make money 'teaching' potential landlords how to make money and a common technique is to provide a standard letter to HMO landlords either asking if a property is for sale or more often, whether we would be interested in sub-letting (guaranteed slightly lower rent and no management overheads) – the problem with this latter approach is that it rarely works, it is a legal minefield, most insurance and mortgage companies do not allow it and the way these people are told they can make money is by squeezing more people into a property – which will typically breach the licence.

The last thing anyone wants is a completely inexperienced landlord overcrowding what was probably a perfectly acceptable property.

As a result, we get fed up of often receiving 3 or 4 almost identical letters in the same week, (obviously given to attendees on a course along with a list of HMO landlords shared by PCC), typically with the opening statement, "Hope you do not mind, I obtained your details from the Portsmouth Council HMO Register"

Only last month we were complaining still:https://pdpla.com/news/landlord-licensing-data-still-being-abused 

And The History...

Initially PCC hid behind the Housing Act statement that a register needed to be kept and should be publicly available. Our request that 'complete copies of the list' should not be shared was ignored.

Once GDPR was defined and its scope became clear and after we had escalated the issue to the regulator (the ICO, Information Commissioners Office) PCC got the message and agreed that anyone who wanted to see the whole list could do so in the council offices and anyone who wanted details for a specific street could be sent them which appeared to meet everyones needs.

Unfortunately, changing personnel at PCC resulted in a change of policy and for the past 2-3 years we have been back to square one. PCC have told people that the whole list, when requested, should not be used for marketing purposes but they have still been supplying it upon request.

What makes this worse is that people sell these lists on and many of the landlords receiving letters from wannabe landlords and agents these days are from the lists obtained when Additional Licensing was in place, so although they no longer have any HMO's which are licensed, they still get hassled by spammers and charlatans who have no experience of the letting industry.

The New News

The following Freedom of Information request was sent to PCC in November:

Dear Portsmouth City Council,

Please can you provide me with the following information under the
Freedom Of Information Act 2000:

1) Addresses of all Registered Residential HMO properties that are
within Portsmouth Council area; and

2) The names & addresses of the owners of those properties referred to in (1)

3) Which of the above properties have 4 or more occupants/rooms

4) The names & addresses of all accredited landlords in Portsmouth

Yours faithfully,
Zak Bacon

And the PCC Response:

Our Ref: FOI2020/1415

Dear Zak Bacon,

INFORMATION REQUEST – FOI2020/1415 - HMO landlords

Thank you for your request for information received on 16th November 2020,
which was considered under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

In accordance with the Act, Portsmouth City Council confirms it holds the
requested information.

YOUR REQUEST AND OUR RESPONSE

Please can you provide me with the following information under the Freedom
Of Information Act 2000:

1) Addresses of all Registered Residential HMO properties that are within
Portsmouth Council area; and

2) The names & addresses of the owners of those properties referred to in
(1)

3) Which of the above properties have 4 or more occupants/rooms

The names and addresses of the holders of licences is contained within
the public register.

The person is able to request an electronic copy of the public register by
emailing [1][email address] or by phoning 02392437914

The information supplied in the register is not for marketing purposes.
This information relates to all properties that are required under part 2
of the Housing Act 2004 ( HMOs with an occupancy level of 5 or more ).

As this information is reasonably accessible, in accordance with section
21 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, we are not required to supply
you with a separate copy in response to your request.

4) The names & addresses of all accredited landlords in Portsmouth

Portsmouth City Council confirms that whilst it hold the requested
information, the Council is unable to supply this information. The
accredited landlords have signed a GDPR statement opting 'out' of sharing
their information, therefore this information is exempt from disclosure in
accordance with Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act.

The information we hold on accredited landlords is personal data as
defined by the General Data Protection Regulation. This information is
not typically already in the public domain and these landlords have opted
out from this being disclosed. We do not therefore believe it would be
their reasonable expectation for us to do so and disclosure would cause us
to breach the First Principle of the Data Protection Act. On this basis,
we are unable to disclose this information as part of your request.

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act section 17 this email
acts as a Refusal Notice. We apologise that your request will not be met
in full, however, if you have any further information needs in the future
then please contact us.
Under the Re- Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 (SI
2015/1415) the supplied information may not be re-used without obtaining
the permission of Portsmouth City Council.
We trust that our response fulfils your request, however, you have the
right to appeal against this outcome or to complain about our treatment of
your request. If you wish to do so, please set out in writing your
grounds of complaint and send to the Corporate Information Governance
Officer at Portsmouth City Council, Civic Offices, Guildhall Square,
Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO1 2AL, telephone 023 9268 8482, e-mail
[2][email address]. Should you be dissatisfied with the outcome of
the complaints decision you may wish to follow the Portsmouth City
Council's Compliments and Complaints procedure which can be found on the
Portsmouth City Council website or by contacting the Civic Offices.

Once these processes have been exhausted you have a further right of
appeal to the Information Commissioner at:

Further information is also available from the Information Commissioner
at:
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Telephone: 0303 123 1113
[3]https://ico.org.uk

Yours sincerely



xxx
Information Governance Specialist

Portsmouth City Council

We are pleased to see the recognition of our rights under GDPR and wish to thank PCC for enforcing them.

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Written & oral information and advice from the Portsmouth & District Private Landlord's Association is given in good faith, but no responsibility whatsoever is accepted by the Association or it's officers for the accuracy of it's information & advice nor shall the Association be held responsible for the consequences of reliance upon such information.

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