Focusing Minds In Local Government

Focusing Minds In Local Government

6:54 AM, 13th April 2017, About 7 years ago 6

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Next week we will be sending the following to all UK Councils.  

Freedom of Information Request

To Whom It May Concern

We are attempting to quantify the impact on homelessness over the next 5 years in the [merge in name of Council] area.

A survey carried out in November 2016 by Property118 (The Landlords Union) revealed that 52% of private housing providers (buy-to-let landlords) intend to sell their rental stock to owner occupiers over the next five years due to changes the Government have made in regards to disallowing mortgage interest as a legitimate business expense.

The information we are requesting under the Freedom of Information Act, which we need to compile our report, is as follows:-

1. How many households are there in the [merge in name of Council] area?

2. How many properties are exempt from council tax, or pay at a reduced rate, because the occupants are in receipt of Housing Benefit or LHA?

3. Of these, how many are owned by the council and how many are owned by housing associations?

4. How many properties are exempt from council tax because they are occupied by students?

5. How many households in the [merge in name of Council] area rent from private landlords?

6. How many households in the [merge in name of Council] area are in receipt of any form of housing benefits?

7. Our research intends to predict the number of dislodged tenants that are likely to turn [merge in name of Council] for housing. The figures will, of course, be on the high side because some of those currently renting will be able to buy. However, given that our research is focussed on benefits claimants and/or students it is logical to assume that the percentage in a position to finance the purchase of a home will be incredibly small. Has [merge in name of Council] got a plan to deal with this and if so, what is it please?

8. Please advise the cost to [merge in name of Council] for emergency housing for the homeless in temporary accommodation for each of the last three years and budgets for the next three years

9. Who at [merge in name of Council] will be responsible for housing the tenants who are made homeless? Please supply the name, direct telephone number and email address of the person responsible.

10. Please advise the name, direct telephone number and email address of the person at [merge in name of Council] responsible for arranging meetings with, and presentations to, landlord and tenant groups.

We have issued the same Freedom of Information request to every Council in the UK and will be publishing all responses.

We fully expect [merge in name of Council] to respond in a timely manner and will be naming and shaming any Councils who do not, as well as reporting them to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Yours faithfully

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Dr Rosalind Beck

7:49 AM, 13th April 2017, About 7 years ago

Ha. Like the sting in the tail!

Robert M

9:01 AM, 13th April 2017, About 7 years ago

While this may provide some figures, they may be of little use because the questions do not take account of the (non-student) HMO situation, nor the supported housing situation (provided by landlords other than social landlords), so the figures you get back may be skewed. For example, you have asked about the number of "households", but in a HMO each room is a separate household in legal terms (and particularly for Housing Benefit purposes), so if there are 4 letting rooms then that is four households, BUT for Council Tax purposes, it is one house (one property subject to CT), which means a council could answer your question with either "1" or "4" (or however many in the HMO). This makes the figures you get unreliable and some councils could give you the lower figure and some could give you the higher figure, both would be correct, but they are not comparable. Furthermore, in such properties, it is the Landlord that pays the CT, so while all residents may be in receipt of HB, there would be no CT reduction/discount/benefit.

Also, you need to take into account supported housing. This is sometimes provided by social landlords, but it can also be provided by landlords that do not fall within this category, (as well as by charities). This could be HMOs for single people, or it could be whole properties for singles/couples/families. Again, where it is a HMO the CT may be payable by the landlord, OR there may be no CT payable and instead it is dealt with through business rates.

The questions also do not seem to take into account joint tenancies, e.g. friends or strangers jointly renting a property together. This could be, for example, four households currently living together as one household (one tenancy, one CT bill, but up to four HB claims), so in this situation if the landlord had to sell the property, that would result in four people becoming homeless and each would be treated as a separate household for homelessness purposes so that would be four homeless applications (even though it was perhaps classed as one household when they were living together, as soon as the accommodation goes then it transforms into four homeless households).

David Rundle

9:13 AM, 13th April 2017, About 7 years ago

Hmm could be close to 15 hours work so you will not get a full response
Better to target questions for the evidence you are looking for
The ombudsman will just say exhaust internal complaints procedure
I hope this helps

James Barnes

10:30 AM, 13th April 2017, About 7 years ago

It seems to me a lot of the questions can be answered by quickly scanning through the most recent census data and housing stock condition surveys. This data is probably easily available and I wonder if a FOI request is really the right approach.

Mark Alexander - Founder of Property118

18:18 PM, 13th April 2017, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Robert Mellors" at "13/04/2017 - 09:01":

Hi Robert

The good new is that we haven't sent it yet. We are waiting until after the Easter Holidays. Therefore, it's not too late to re-word any of the questions. What wording do you suggest please?

This is going to be a huge project so we need to get it right.

There are 418 principal (unitary, upper and second tier) councils in the UK – 27 county councils, 201 district councils, and 125 unitary councils.

Chris @ Possession Friend

20:11 PM, 13th April 2017, About 7 years ago

Even if you only get half or a significant portion of Councils responding, Data can be extrapolated sufficient to give reasoned projections.
Plus, as has been mentioned more can be made of the subjective question of why Councils didn't respond.
By all means weed a couple of questions out if the number and time is going to be a factor and the answers can be easily obtained - or else, get half the questions asked in someone else's name - Please feel free to use mine ?

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