Council Freedom of Information Request RefusedMake Text Bigger
I am writing this somewhat preemptively in the hope of some suggestions from the Property 118 readership.
Recently the local authority (North East Lincolnshire Council) have been carrying out inspections at rented properties following a complaint by a tenant (justly or otherwise), with the results/hazards identified, of which there are always many, and the recommended remedies being forwarded to the landlord, with some of these repairs being mandatory. The inspections are taking place under the Home Health and Safety Ratings Scheme (HHSRS).
Part of my problem is that the council’s findings are often wrong, cannot be supported by legislation and the suggested remedies are nothing more than a ‘wish list’ of what the inspecting officer would like to see carried out in terms of works at the property. For some time I suspected the chap who carries out the HHSRS inspection was not competent and so I, along with around 50 other local landlords, undertook the HHSRS qualification course in order that we be able to better understand how the reports are compiled and the justifications for noting various ‘hazards’ within it.
Now that I am a proud HHSRS certificate holder and fully up-to-date with the latest material, I recently had an inspection by the main council officer (they are almost always carried out by the same staff member these days), it is clear to me that he neither knows how to perform an inspection nor, I strongly suspect, is even qualified at all.
I put my concerns to the LA and requested sight of his certificate in an informal letter, which was refused. I then made a Freedom of Information request that was also refused (as it is deemed ‘personal’ information), as was the subsequent Internal Review of that decision. When I spoke on the telephone with the inspecting officer’s boss, he laughed and said, ‘There’s no way you’re getting the certificate!’
I have now passed the request to the Information Commissioner and after 17 weeks of waiting, the case has finally been assigned to a case worker whom I had a conversation with today. He seemed sympathetic toward the Council and was really worried about ruling in my favour, because ‘How would I feel if my information was made public?’ This is a professional qualification for goodness sake! I asked how could anyone be sure that anyone in society is qualified in what the claim to be unless they prove so. I pointed out that I would not actually be gaining any new information as I already know the council officer’s name, I know what the qualification I am requesting sight of is in (HHSRS) and they have ‘assured’ me on a number of occasions that he is indeed qualified. Showing me the certificate is merely evidencing so, not in itself giving any further as-yet unknown information. The case worker seemed unconvinced.
In anticipation of a result that doesn’t reveal the truth, does anyone have a suggestion about how I could expose the Council and the truth as to the validity of their assurances that he is qualified. Of course, this could be the tip of the iceberg.
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