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Frequently asked questions about empty properties

Find out answers to the most common questions we get asked about empty properties.

If I make a Freedom of Information request could I have a list of empty council owned properties?

We are not able to provide you with the full details for our empty properties for the reasons provided below.

Releasing details of empty properties

Although we hold addresses of empty properties, under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act we have the right to refuse to comply with a request for information if an exemption applies. In this case it is considered that the following exemptions apply:

Law Enforcement (Section 31 (a))

This exemption relates to law enforcement where disclosure would be likely to prejudice the prevention and detection of crime.

Empty properties are likely to be associated with criminal activity and on the balance of probabilities disclosure of a list of such properties would lead to significant harm of criminal activity. For the purposes of the Freedom of Information Act, giving out information in response to a request is giving that information to the public at large. If a list of all empty properties was given out, disclosure would be highly likely to prejudice the prevention of crime and lead to the theft of materials eg pipework, radiators etc from empty properties. 

This is a qualified exemption, where the public interest test must be applied. The public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure. The impact of crime is an important part of the public interest test in this case and the detrimental effect on individuals is such that the information should not be disclosed. 

Health and Safety (Section 38)

Disclosure of a list of empty properties could endanger the safety of individuals. It is considered that the release of the information may subject the properties to an increased risk of squatting and break in and, given that empty properties are, by their nature, liable to be at increased risk of disrepair and potentially there may be a risk to anyone breaking in or attempting to squat in the building and it's been determined that there may be a resultant risk to health and safety.
Section 38 is a qualified exemption and the public interest in disclosure has to be considered when determining whether to release the information. It has been considered and concluded that there is no overriding public interest in disclosing this information.