Trading Standards Investigations into Lettings Agents and Property Managers

Waiting for an internal review by Hull City Council of their handling of this request.

Dear Hull City Council,

Would you please supply the following information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The number of trading standards investigations carried out in relation to letting agents and property management companies in the past 5 years. If the number of investigations is less than 15, please extend the period to 10 years.

With the data please expand using the following criteria:

What was the exact nature of those investigations and outcome on a case by case basis and who were the alleged offending agents involved in those cases. With this in mind please clarify the investigations using the following format taking note of the examples.

Date: xx/xxxx
Company: ABC Agents
Offence/s: Breach of section xx of xxxx Act /Reg xxxx
Nature of Offence: Misleading action/Omission/Money Laundering/Failure to Register for Redress Scheme
Action Taken: Warning Issued/Court Proceedings Taken (Outcome)/ Referred to Police/SFO/CMA/ Or Relevant comment

Date: xx/xxxx
Company: (Under Investigation)
Offence/s: Breach of section xx of xxxx Act /Reg xxxx
Nature of Offence: Misleading action/Omission/Money Laundering/Failure to Register for Redress Scheme
Action Taken: Under Investigation/Proceeding With Court Case/Referred to Police/SFO/CMA/Or Relevant Comment

It is understood that disclosure of any company’s details is not covered by the DPA and therefore cannot be withheld unless there is a current ongoing investigation (not outstanding due to disapeearance) against the company. In stating this exception only applies to ongoing investigations and does not preclude the company being named relating to previous investigations. If there is an ongoing investigation then please indicate the investigation type and omit the company’s name.

Finally, the release of this information is in the public interest and appreciate your cooperation in this matter.

Yours Sincerely,

M Doyle

Information Governance, Hull City Council

We acknowledge receipt of your request for information which we will
process in accordance with the appropriate legislation below:

Freedom of Information Act
This covers general recorded information that is held by the Council.
Examples: budget information, staff structures, details of contracts etc

From the next working day that the request is received we have 20 working
days to respond. This does not take in to account any clarification we may
require or if we need to consider the Public Interest Test which allows us
up to a maximum of 20 additional working days.

Environmental Information Regulation
This covers all environmental information held by the Council.
Examples: Planning Applications, details of proposed road works, flood
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From the next working day that the request is received we have 20 working
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Section 7 of the Data Protection Act (Subject Access Request)
This section of the Data Protection legislation only relates to requests
for information about the requester or a client if you are acting on their
behalf.
Examples: Personnel file, Housing file, Council Tax/Housing Benefit
information etc.

We have 40 days from the date of receipt to respond.

Information Governance Team
Town Clerk's Service
Hull City Council
The Guildhall

 

Barkworth Jane, Hull City Council

1 Attachment

 

Dear Mr Doyle

 

Freedom of Information Act 2000 – Information Request - 001927/17

 

With regard to your Freedom of Information request received on 17/11/2017,
please find our response below. 

 

 

The number of trading standards investigations carried out in relation to
letting agents and property management companies in the past 5 years.  If
the number of investigations is less than 15, please extend the period to
10 years.

 

With the data please expand using the following criteria:

What was the exact nature of those investigations and outcome on a case by
case basis and who were the alleged offending agents involved in those
cases. With this in mind please clarify the investigations using the
following format taking note of the examples.

 

Date: xx/xxxx

Company: ABC Agents

Offence/s: Breach of section xx of xxxx Act /Reg xxxx

Nature of Offence: Misleading action/Omission/Money Laundering/Failure to
Register for Redress Scheme

Action Taken: Warning Issued/Court Proceedings Taken (Outcome)/ Referred
to Police/SFO/CMA/ Or Relevant comment

 

Date: xx/xxxx

Company: (Under Investigation)

Offence/s: Breach of section xx of xxxx Act /Reg xxxx

Nature of Offence: Misleading action/Omission/Money Laundering/Failure to
Register for Redress Scheme

Action Taken: Under Investigation/Proceeding With Court Case/Referred to
Police/SFO/CMA/Or Relevant Comment

 

It is understood that disclosure of any company’s details is not covered
by the DPA and therefore cannot be withheld unless there is a current
ongoing investigation (not outstanding due to disapeearance) against the
company. In stating this exception only applies to ongoing investigations
and does not preclude the company being named relating to previous
investigations. If there is an ongoing investigation then please indicate
the investigation type and omit the company’s name.

 

Finally, the release of this information is in the public interest and
appreciate your cooperation in this matter.

 

 

All of the requested information has been provided on the enclosed
document, except for the names of the companies.

 

In accordance with Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act, the
Council is required to inform you that this information has not been
provided and has been withheld due to the following exemptions under the
Act.

 

Section 30 (1&2) – Investigations and proceedings conducted by public
authorities.

It is considered that this exemption under Section 30 of the Act applies
to the information you have requested therefore the names of the agents
have been withheld.  This information was held, recorded or obtained for
the purpose of investigations and proceedings for which the Council has
legal powers or duties to conduct.

 

What the Act says:

 

(1) Information held by a public authority is exempt information if it has
at any time been held by the authority for the purposes of—

(a) any investigation which the public authority has a duty to conduct
with a view to it being ascertained—

(i) whether a person should be charged with an offence, or

(ii) whether a person charged with an offence is guilty of it,

 

(2) Information held by a public authority is exempt information if—

(a) it was obtained or recorded by the authority for the purposes of its
functions relating to—

(i) investigations falling within subsection (1)(a) or (b),

 

The enclosed information was obtained for the purpose of investigating
potential trading standards offences. Although none of these
investigations are ongoing, section 30 (1&2) will continue to protect
information even if that information is no longer being used for the
specified investigation or proceeding.

 

We have considered the public interest in regard to the release of this
information and in so doing have weighed the benefits that disclosure
would provide in respect of openness and accountability against the harm
and prejudice which could be caused to the companies and the Council in
release of this sensitive information.  As all of these investigations are
now complete and action has been taken to bring the companies back into
compliance or they have ceased trading, we do not believe it would be in
the public interest to disclose the names of these agents, as there is no
reason to suspect that they are currently breaking trading standards
regulations which may affect the public. We therefore believe in this
case, there is no justification in releasing the names of the companies
and therefore the public interest in withholding the information outweighs
the public interest in disclosure.

 

 

 

We hope that you will be satisfied with our response and should you
require any further information then please do not hesitate to contact
us. 

 

 

Should you wish to complain about our response in any way this must
initially be done by e-mailing [1][Hull City Council request email] or by
contacting us at The Information Governance Team, The Guildhall, Alfred
Gelder Street, Hull, HU1 2AA.

 

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the internal review then you
may take your complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office, the
government body established to enforce the legislation.

 

Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House Water Lane,

Wilmslow,

Cheshire,

SK9 5AF

 

Web site: [2]https://ico.org.uk

Report a concern: [3]https://ico.org.uk/concerns/

Email: [4][email address]

Tel: 0303 123 1113 (local rate) or 01625 545 745 (national rate)

 

ICO states that any emails you choose to send to them, or that they send
to you, are not secure as email messages can be intercepted.

ICO asks that you include a contact telephone number on any emails you
send to them. 

 

The Council’s Freedom of Information Policy, which includes the charging
policy, is available on request and from the web site
[5]www.hullcc.gov.uk.  Also available is a booklet on ‘Accessing
Information from Hull City Council’ which explains how to request
information and your rights (according to the Data Protection Act 1998 and
The Freedom of Information Act 2000).

 

 

This information may be subject to copyright. The Freedom of Information
Act does not give you an automatic right to re-use this information in a
way that would infringe copyright, for example, by publishing it or
distributing copies.  You are free to use it for your own purposes
including any non-commercial research or private study or for the purposes
of news reporting.

If you wish to re-use this information and this was not specified in your
initial application please contact us to discuss conditions for re-use. In
most cases we will permit use and re-use in accordance with The Open
Government Licence which can be found at
[6]www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

 

Jane Barkworth

Information Governance Officer

Town Clerk's Service

Hull City Council

Tel: 01482 300300

 

 

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src="http://static.hullcc.gov.uk/images/HULL_...
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show quoted sections

Dear Ms Barkworth

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Hull City Council's handling of my FOI request 'Trading Standards Investigations into Lettings Agents and Property Managers'.

In the case of this response, the information falls well short of that requested and there are a number of points which have been misinterpreted and or overlooked relating to the request

With respect section 30 does not cover issues that are in the public interest to which naming of the companies applies. Furthermore this is substantiated by the fact that in the vast majority of other responses to identical requests with over 50 other councils, they have made rendered all information relating to the request with some councils, in fact releasing details of companies. Moreover there is information online and in the public domain relating to action by Hull Trading Standards and or the Council and naming of traders, be they individuals or companies involved such as
Motor Depot
Greggs
Clough Road Car Sales
David Wood
Edgar Woodise
Manor Property Group
Abiente Tapas
Fudge Bakery
However, it has been noted that refusal of information has been made by the council in relation to ongoing cases in the past and yet disclosures were made which ended up in the public domain prior to action being taken. It is also noted that the council publishes data on the website without naming the offending traders.
In the response and compounded by the erroneous imposition of section 30, there is no differentiation in the offending/reported party and as such the complaints could be attributed to an individual, a single company or finite number of companies, distorting the number of investigations and as such is disputed. Moreover, other councils which have mistakenly or rightly withheld names have differentiated between companies in order that the information could be at least analysed with some degree of certainty. In this case the response could be construed as a selection of random complaints

That Misleading Action or Misleading Omission has been used as offences instead of citing the relevant legislation as requested. The request clearly stipulated to denote the offence under regulation section and or act. In this case it seems as though the sample was not understood in terms of your own sample on the council website as “Legislation” and “Circumstances”. This was understood in the vast majority of responses and again, those details were forwarded by most of not all responses so far where breaches and investigations have taken place. Again the failure of listing the applicable legislation breach can distort information and data supplied.

In summary the information supplied by Hull City Council falls short of being acceptable and does not meet the request as presented to which the majority of respondents in identical requests have responded and adhered to. Furthermore, given the aforementioned and the potential financial losses and dangers that can befall consumers by the offending traders and given the wider interpretation and the inconstancy by the council, especially when taking into consideration that food hygiene ratings are a form of public notice being placed in public view of customers which directly relate and to the traders adherence or failure in compliance to regulations and legislation. Given the precedents and wider acceptance, I believe that there is justification for release of the information and naming of offending traders, excluding current ongoing investigations. I therefore request that you review the information supplied your response and interpretation of a Section 30 contrary to the public interest and the consensus of other local councils n releasing of information.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...

Yours faithfully,

Mark Doyle

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