HMO Application Misuse of Data?

by Readers Question

9:36 AM, 12th January 2021
About A week ago

HMO Application Misuse of Data?

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HMO Application Misuse of Data?

I would be interested to hear what the readers’ views and opinions are regarding my recent dealings with the Local Authority regarding an application to licence an HMO. By way of introduction, I am a landlord operating in the Midlands for just over 20 years. I have a number of smaller HMOs and several mandatory HMOs, the most recent being the one that is subject to my issue: In short, I made an online application to licence this HMO and the autumn of 1999 and paid the appropriate fee online.

In the spring of 2000, I received a letter from Housing Enforcement that they had conducted an “HMO Proactive Inspection” of the property and detailed that I was in breach of a number of regulations (Gas safety EICR) and that the property was unlicensed. I was also invited to apply for a licence and as the property was “found to be unlicensed” is would be under the most unfavourable terms…

Accordingly, I contacted the LA to correct them that a full & complete licence application and fee had been made (including Gas Safety, EICR records etc). They initially denied it was on their system, but they eventually conceded when I forwarded copies and receipts. I received no apology.

Eventually, in December 2000 I received a notice from the LA of their intention to grant a licence for the property for one year at the maximum fee. To add insult to injury the Licence being offered would expire in March 2001! I was further advised that should I wish to make representation over the terms of the licence I had 21 days. I made those representations by email immediately but have yet to receive a reply, the 21 days have now expired.

So, the pragmatist in me suggests I should settle the matter if the LA concede they have made a mistake and the appropriate fee is applied. To that end do I offer the fee now (£150) of pay the fee requested (£800) and pursue a refund?
However, I am minded that Landlords in my LA are being held to a higher standard than the LA authority themselves: For example, should one mistake be made on an application you would not be eligible for the most favourable licence. I am also reminded that Liverpool CC have misused Landlord’s data. I believe there are a number of potential Data Breaches or am I being vexatious?
1. Failed to register the initial HMO application properly
2. Conducted an inspection of an “unlicensed property” while in possession of information that would prove otherwise.
3. Potentially, incorrectly informed tenants that the property was unlicensed (Criminal Act)
4. Having been informed that the information they held was incorrect failed to correct it.
5. Used the information that was incorrectly held to discriminate against my application: Offered the HMO Licence under the most unfavourable terms possible.

Clearly some above have more merit than others but is it a worthwhile pursuit to take these issues to the Data Manager and ICO, do you believe I have a credible case?

PBW


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Comments

Ron H-W

17:08 PM, 12th January 2021
About A week ago

Was this shortly after you started being a landlord?
Because some 20 years seem to have gone by ...
It is a dreadful situation, but if it's that long ago it may be too late to do anything.
If I'm wrong then please, if you can, edit the dates (from 1999, 2000 and 2001).

In any event, I think you should involve your MP - and maybe also a Councillor of your ward.
(Sorry, I don't feel qualified to answer the specific questions you asked.)

Earlsdon

17:22 PM, 12th January 2021
About A week ago

Reply to the comment left by Ron H-W at 12/01/2021 - 17:08
Yes, you're correct my dates are wrong but I can't find the option to edit the piece. By way of correction I applied for the licence in 2019 and was offered a one year licence that expires this March 2021. So three months left.

Earlsdon

17:41 PM, 12th January 2021
About A week ago

I don't know if Admin have the option to edit the original piece as there are errors with the dates, this is how it should read:
I would be interested to hear what the readers’ views and opinions are regarding my recent dealings with the Local Authority regarding an application to licence an HMO. By way of introduction, I am a landlord operating in the Midlands for just over 20 years. I have a number of smaller HMOs and several mandatory HMOs, the most recent being the one that is subject to my issue: In short, I made an online application to licence this HMO and the autumn of 2019 and paid the appropriate fee online.

In the spring of 2020, I received a letter from Housing Enforcement that they had conducted an “HMO Proactive Inspection” of the property and detailed that I was in breach of a number of regulations (Gas safety EICR) and that the property was unlicensed. I was also invited to apply for a licence and as the property was “found to be unlicensed” is would be under the most unfavourable terms…

Accordingly, I contacted the LA to correct them that a full & complete licence application and fee had been made (including Gas Safety, EICR records etc). They initially denied it was on their system, but they eventually conceded when I forwarded copies and receipts. I received no apology.

Eventually, in December 2020 I received a notice from the LA of their intention to grant a licence for the property for one year at the maximum fee. To add insult to injury the Licence being offered would expire in March 2021! I was further advised that should I wish to make representation over the terms of the licence I had 21 days. I made those representations by email immediately but have yet to receive a reply, the 21 days have now expired.

So, the pragmatist in me suggests I should settle the matter if the LA concede they have made a mistake and the appropriate fee is applied. To that end do I offer the fee now (£150) of pay the fee requested (£800) and pursue a refund?
However, I am minded that Landlords in my LA are being held to a higher standard than the LA authority themselves: For example, should one mistake be made on an application you would not be eligible for the most favourable licence. I am also reminded that Liverpool CC have misused Landlord’s data. I believe there are a number of potential Data Breaches or am I being vexatious?
1. Failed to register the initial HMO application properly
2. Conducted an inspection of an “unlicensed property” while in possession of information that would prove otherwise.
3. Potentially, incorrectly informed tenants that the property was unlicensed (Criminal Act)
4. Having been informed that the information they held was incorrect failed to correct it.
5. Used the information that was incorrectly held to discriminate against my application: Offered the HMO Licence under the most unfavourable terms possible.

Clearly some above have more merit than others but is it a worthwhile pursuit to take these issues to the Data Manager and ICO, do you believe I have a credible case?

homemaker

8:21 AM, 13th January 2021
About A week ago

I am unclear how there has been a breach of the regulations. Whether the HMO was licensed or not the la have powers to inspect and at that time although an application had been made it appears that it hadn’t been processed so no criminal act. At worst it appears to me that they have been inefficient. If it was me I’d contact the la’s housing enforcement manager directly to express your concerns and for an explanation of the applicable fee/ license term.

Earlsdon

11:39 AM, 13th January 2021
About A week ago

Thanks for your reply, homemaker. To answer that question the authority has it on record despite me providing evidence to the contrary that I have committed a Criminal Offence (Operating a HMO without a Licence). The offer of a licence under the least favourable terms indicates that they have not corrected this information. The current system of Licencing is onerous, burdensome, inefficient and built on the conviction that most LL are non compliant. (Head of Licencing in my LA actually said 80% of LL don't know what they're doing in the public consultation meeting). These are just my thoughts on whether it would be reasonable to pursue these matters and push back against this current system. The relevant piece of legislation is:

Article 5 of the UK GDPR (d) accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date; every reasonable step must be taken to ensure that personal data that are inaccurate, having regard to the purposes for which they are processed, are erased or rectified without delay (‘accuracy’);
Article 83(5)(a) states that infringements of the basic principles for processing personal data are subject to the highest tier of administrative fines. (Subject to enormous fines).

David

13:43 PM, 13th January 2021
About A week ago

I'm unclear why you are in a rush to "settle the matter". You have made an appeal and not yet had a response. Surely you have to wait for due process. Once you've made an application and paid the fee, then you are covered against any penalty, fine or RRO so there shouldn't be any urgency, unless I've missed something.

Tony McVey

15:18 PM, 16th January 2021
About 4 days ago

It would be interesting to see what will happen if you take the matter up with ICO. What about lodging a complaint with the L A
Ombudsman?
.

Jon D

20:51 PM, 17th January 2021
About 3 days ago

Anyone want to start a petition to privatise your local council?

I'm serious. They are a cancer on business & property.


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