During the early days of this blog one of the hot topics was whether the Freedom of Information Act gave people the right to see council’s lists of empty homes. Developers and aspirant homeowners wanting to find a wreck to do up thought it did and local authorities, in the main, thought it didn’t. See this post from March
With very few exceptions local authorities took the view that requests to see lists of empty homes should be turned down. The most common reason cited was that putting the information in the public domain may lead to an increase in crime. Although as you will see from March’s post there were a number of other creative reasons given as well. I was never persueded of this line of arguement and argued in favour of local authorities making the information available.
One individual who was unhappy with the response he got from from the London Borough of Bexley appealed. Eventually the appeal ended up with the Information Commissioner who has just released his decision on the case.
The commissioner has found in the individual’s favour. The decision deals pretty comprehensively with the issue and in the paragraph that really destroys the council’s case says, “The commissioner accepts that empty properties may be the target of crime. He does not accept, though, that disclosure of a list of empty properties would lead to more crime being committed or to more of it going undetected. In fact one could just as easily conclude that because empty properties may attract crime, the availability of a list of such properties that could be used for the purposes of local regeneration and to facilitate the reoccupation of empty properties could, in fact, help reduce local crime levels.”