Freedom of Information request - Empty property (FOI-597)
Dear Hackney Borough Council,
In line with the precedent set by Lambeth Council, who recently released a
list of all vacant properties within its jurisdiction in response to a FOI
request; please provide a list of all vacant properties known to the
Council, derelict or abandoned under the Empty Private Sector Homes
I am doing a course in housing and management, I have been tasked with
gathering information from local boroughs on empty homes and their history
behind it. I would very much like to know if I can get information on
these properties and possible take pictures so that I can build a profile
on them and find why properties are left empty especially in this day and
age when we have a massive housing shortage in stock.
can you please help me get all the relevant information.
Thank you for your request of 25th July 2018. We apologise for the extremely long delay in responding.
In line with the precedent set by Lambeth Council, who recently released a list of all vacant properties within its jurisdiction in response to a FOI request; please provide a list of all vacant properties known to the Council, derelict or abandoned under the Empty Private Sector Homes Scheme.
The Council has now considered your request and although it does hold the information, after reviewing the guidance provided by the Information Commissioner it has concluded that, (with the exception of certain Council-owned empty commercial properties which are listed under: http://www.hackney.gov.uk/xr-property-services-592.htm# ), it considers that information relating to empty properties is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Section 31:Prejudicial to law enforcement
It is important to emphasise here, that whilst your own motives for requesting this information are certainly not in question, any information given under the Freedom of Information Act is a response into the public domain and not merely to you, the applicant. It is this perspective that must therefore be taken into account.
Section 31(1) (a) - Law Enforcement
The Council seeks to withhold the addresses of the empty properties falling within the scope of this request on the basis of section 31(1) (a). This section states that information is exempt if its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the prevention or detection of crime.
The Council does acknowledge that other local authorities have disclosed empty property information under similar Freedom of Information Act requests. However, the London Borough of Hackney has a different demographic make-up and the level of crime to the majority of those Councils. Consequently, as there are genuine concerns that empty properties could be targeted for crimes, such as arson, metal theft, identity theft, etc., and that this could lead to endangerment, the Council believes that this information should be withheld from being disclosed into the public domain.
Providing a list of the addresses of empty properties would provide those intent on committing crimes associated with such properties with an easy way to identify them. The resultant prejudice which the Council believes would occur is one that can be categorised as one that would be real and of substance. Given the types of crimes involving empty properties that the Council has identified, the assertion is that disclosure of the addresses falling within the scope of this request represents more than a hypothetical risk of harming the prevention of crime.
Public Interest Arguments for Disclosure
Public Interest Arguments for Withholding information
· Disclosure could provide the public with a greater insight into the administration of the empty properties in Hackney (i.e. private and council owned as well as commercial)
· It is not in the public interest to disclose information that aids individuals to commit crimes.
· The council needs to be able to effectively carry out its functions with businesses, and to rely on the utmost integrity and security
· The potential for indirect consequences of crime, for example the impact on neighbouring properties of crimes carry out on the empty properties.
Balance of the public interest
The Council acknowledges that it could be seen to be in the public interest to disclose the addresses as it might provide some insight, albeit relatively limited, into the administration of Council Tax by the Council. However, the Council is firmly of the view that such interests are greatly outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that criminals are not aided in using empty properties in the London Borough of Hackney for crime. Therefore the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the addresses of the empty properties.
If you are dissatisfied with this response and wish to appeal, please respond to this email to request an Internal Review.
If you are still not satisfied following the Internal Review, you have a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner.
Information Commissioner"s Office
0303 123 1113
London Borough of Hackney