Free Our Data: the blog

A Guardian Technology campaign for free public access to data about the UK and its citizens


You cannot charge for property searches, councils told, and you might have to pay some back

Interesting decision by the Information Commissioner: property searches are environmental data, and as such should be made available to councils under Freedom of Information regulations.

This is pretty big – particularly for estate agents.

Thanks to EPSIPlus forum for the pointer:

As the head of the IPSA noted:

The ICO has published two section 50 rulings today against Local Authorities in England.

East Riding of Yorkshire – The ICO has ruled Building Control and Traffic data is EIR and the Local Authority must make the data available in 35 days.

Stoke City Council – The ICO has ruled Building Control and Traffic data is EIR and the Local Authority must make the data available in 35 days.

Failure to comply by either Local Authority may result in the ICO making written certification of this fact to the High Court (or the Court of Session in Scotland) pursuant to section 54 of the Act and may be dealt with as a contempt of court. Data must be made available under the pricing terms of EIR. The ICO is not satisfied by the ‘made available under another means’ (CON29R requests) and the payment of a full Local Authority fee. This is because the Charging Regulations (CPSR) acts as a barrier to the data.

The Property Search Industry will now seek reimbursement of fees paid under duress / under protest. (emphasis added).

Now, that could get rather interesting. And for cash-strapped councils, not being able to charge for property searches (or even parts of them, but particularly the environmental data side of them) is going to make a difference. If anyone knows how much councils make from those charges, we’d be very interested to know more.

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