Trading Standards Investigations into Lettings Agents and Property Managers

Mark made this Freedom of Information request to Bradford City Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

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

Dear Bradford 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

Freedom of Information, Bradford City Council

Dear Mr Doyle,

I refer to your request 17 November 2017 under the Freedom of Information Act asking for information shown below.

Under Part 1 section 1 (a) of the FOI Act, I must inform you that this authority does not hold the information requested and would advise that you contact the West Yorkshire Joint Services using the details below:

West Yorkshire Joint Services
PO Box 5
Nepshaw Lane South
Morley
LS27 0QP
Telephone: 0113 253 0241

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, if you are not satisfied with this reply you may ask for a review of the decision by contacting [Bradford City Council request email] or by writing to Freedom of Information, Bradford Metropolitan District, 1st Floor, Britannia House, Hall Ings, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD1 1HX.

If you are still not satisfied with the outcome of the internal review you have the right of appeal to the Information Commissioner who can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 01625 545700 URL: http://www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

Richard Hanson

Information Governance Administrator
City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council – Department of Corporate Services
1st Floor Britannia House, Hall Ings, Bradford BD1 1HX
Tel: 01274 431322
For Freedom of Information requests, please visit our website http://www.bradford.gov.uk/foi before you submit a request as you may find the information and data that you want in the data that we already publish in our Publication Scheme.  The Scheme has a significant amount of information which is available to you, without the need for a specific request, and describes how we work and how to obtain information published by our various departments.
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Dear Bradford City Council,

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

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

Having taken your direction and received a response from WYJS stating that only 1 investigation has taken place in 7 years and it is current, along with a response from Leeds council stating that they they carried out 49 investigation in the last 2 years alone leads me to question the information you supplied. This requires that you review your response as there seems to have been an erroneous misdirection and I bring your attention to the following article

https://www.bradford.gov.uk/housing/lett...

Please also note the following

The request to the council is 1 of over 50 identical requests were made across all London Boroughs and top 20 populated councils in England.

That all councils with a per capita, rental property and relative business coefficient have in the main replied and adhered to the request in the format required.

That the use of the act and or acts, especially in respect of FOI section 44 and 30 to withhold and the Enterprise act part 9, cannot be applied in this request in order to present a refusal of disclosure as to do so would contravene standard practice in other areas. Apart from potential misinterpretation and or unreasonable use, the imposition is superseded and nullified due to a number of factors, including but not exclusively the following.
- Other councils interpretation and setting precedent by issuing company and trader names in the request which can be found on Whatdotheyknow.com such as Leicester City Council
- The naming of companies receiving fixed penalties relating to publication of fees under the acts described in your response that are in the public domain, such as Foxtons receiving a significant number of fixed penalties by councils in London.
- Your own council and other councils environmental health units carrying out inspections and the issuing hygiene standard ratings notices to publicly display the level of compliance in the windows of those businesses. Therefore these notices to state the degree of compliance are made public without any legal action being taken or indeed indicating that it will take place. Example in the is case, investigations and notices of compliance and penalties issued to Lettings Agents and Property Management Companies are de facto binary notices of compliance or non compliance and those traders names should be divulged in the public interest. By doing and contrary to Hygiene notices, disclosure will have no adverse affect on those businesses should they become compliant and should they remain non compliant, then the council can issue a penalty which should be divulged as the company clearly shows that it is willing to breach legislation and regulation which is on public record, ergo failure of compliance in hygiene as an example, this can also be construed as being under investigation as there are constant compliance checks being carried out and premised investigated for breaches. Therefore failing to disclose is fundamentally disproportionate bias and prejudicially favourable to property sector companies and a breach in itself.
- That it is in the public interest that disclosure be made and failure to do so gives licence for bad business practices to be pursued by those companies and or sector as the public record of legislative and regulatory breaches are being unreasonably withheld putting consumers and or tenants at risk to financial loss or indeed loss of their home..

The information is required to ascertain the level of enforcement and areas which are being approached, therefore it is important that the data is furnished in the entirety to avert the misreporting of such complaints. For example being described as investigated when there has just been a legitimate response and advice given relating to a complainant and or citing multiple complaints as investigations relating to the same trader and or company for the same and or repeated offence from the same group of people on a regular basis.

Furthermore, with full disclosure it is easier to differentiate cited investigations relating to different traders and the standard compliance checks and or statutory membership to a stipulated redress scheme, publication of fees and or other breach which often take place in a finite time period and possibly related to a policy directive than complaint. By delivering the information as per the request, an informed interpretation of the data can be made.

Given that only a minority of 53 requests made have reverted to the wholesale and unreasonable withholding, misinterpretation of the act and or as in your response, forwarding unsubstantiated entries not in accordance with a request was designed to obtain an informed response with clarity of content that would be achievable within the scope of the act as well as time constraints and costs.

If you are in doubt this can be achieved and what has been disclosed, I ask that you review the responses of the City of Leicester and the London Borough of Croydon for examples of comparative and achievable responses under identical requests and conditions.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...

Given the above and proof that the request can be achieved within the parameters set out in the act in accordance of the request, I ask that an internal review be untaken and the request be responded to which the formats supplied by either Croydon or Leicester are acceptable as responses, to which the information supplied has gone some way. More importantly, please note that in Leicester’s response they have supplied all the comparative information to which you have refused citing legislation.
I hope that you will now reconsider you position and revert in due course

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

Mark Dewar, Bradford City Council

Dear Mark,

 

I refer to your request for a review of the freedom of information
response issued to you on 21 November 2017.  The original response has now
been reviewed and further information is provided below.

 

Your original request:

 

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.

 

Council’s revised response:

 

I have considered the information presented to me in your request for a
review, and whilst the Council stands by its original decision as Trading
Standards in West Yorkshire are a standalone organisation, I can, however,
provide you with some numerical data from the Council’s Housing Standards
team regarding the Redress Scheme.  (Numerical data below).

 

Statistical information:

 

Number of Notices of Intention to Issue a penalty notice            54

Number of Penalty
notices                                                                        
  6

 

The Housing Standards Team are the Council’s housing enforcement team who
issue fines to those Agents who have failed to join one of the Redress
Schemes that have been created as a result of The Redress Schemes for
Lettings Agency Work and Property Management Work (Requirement to Belong
to a Scheme etc) (England) Order 2014.  Please note that this legislation
has only existed since 2014 so I cannot provide you with 5, or 10 year’s
worth of data.

 

The Council’s procedure for dealing with Redress Scheme regulations can be
found on our website (link below)

 

[1]https://www.bradford.gov.uk/housing/lett...

 

Your enquiry specifically related to Trading Standards Investigations and
my original response referred you to them.  Bradford Council is a separate
entity to Trading Standards.  I refer you back to my original response
which has trading standards contact information.

 

I have come to the conclusion that the decision made originally was
essentially correct given the specific nature and wording of your
request. 

 

If you are still not satisfied with the outcome of the internal review you
have the right of appeal to the Information Commissioner who can be
contacted at : Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water
Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.

 

Tel: 0303 123 1113 (local rate) or 01625 545 745           URL:
[2]https://ico.org.uk/

 

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Mark
Dewar                                                                          

Service Coordination Officer

Economy & Development

 

8th Floor,

Margaret McMillan Tower,

Bradford, BD1 1NN

 

City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council
Department of Place

 

Get the Bradford Council mobile app: [3]www.bradford.gov.uk/app

 

This e-mail, and any attachments, may contain Protected or Restricted
information and is intended solely for the individual to whom it is
addressed. It may contain sensitive or protectively marked material and
should be handled accordingly. If this e-mail has been misdirected, please
notify the author immediately. If you are not the intended recipient you
must not disclose, distribute, copy, print or rely on any of the
information contained in it or attached, and all copies must be deleted
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If you would like to make a Freedom of Information request, please visit
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as you may find the information and data that you want in the data that we
already publish in our Publication Scheme. The Scheme has a significant
amount of information which is available to you, without the need for a
specific request, and describes how we work and how to obtain information
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References

Visible links
1. https://www.bradford.gov.uk/housing/lett...
2. https://ico.org.uk/
3. http://www.bradford.gov.uk/app
4. http://www.bradford.gov.uk/foi

Dear Mr Dewar,

Given that Leeds council and a few other councils removed the powers from trading standards without disclosing this to the general public and have interpreted under the same circumstances and then supplied the information relating to these penalties in detail, including the recipients, in accordance with the request.

In particular the examples gave scope for interpretation and to supply that information

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

You will note that "Failure to Register for Redress Scheme" was clearly indicated and it should have been acted upon in the same manner in which I was referred to WYJS.

Given these other directly comparable responses in relation to your own response , it could be taken that the original replay and your phrasing in internal review response could be construed as willful misleading omission to which Local Authorities are prohibited under the very same CPRs and CRA which are used in cases such which the request in part relates. It is clearly stated in these 2 key pieces of consumer legislation that definition of business includes "the activities of any government department or local or public authority" and as such are subject to the same prohibitions, even when dealing with an FOI request.

So with this in mind and in avoidance of pursuing the issue with the ICO, would you kindly fulfill the request and expand of the numbers you have indicated in accordance with the example which has been easily achieved by Leeds and Leicester which are available online through this portal.

Please note that Leeds has updated their response with the dates added to their original data sent

Yours sincerely,

Mark Doyle