Freedom of Information

Data Protection Act 1998

The Data Protection Act 1998 gives you the right to see any information the Housing Ombudsman Service holds about you personally, whether on paper or in electronic records.

‘Personal Data’ is defined as data that relates to a living individual who can be identified from the information held by the ‘data controller’ (in this case the Housing Ombudsman). It includes any expression of opinion about the individual and any indication of the intentions of the data controller or any other person in respect of the individual.

We take care with the personal information we hold and think carefully about what and to whom we disclose it.

Data Protection principles

The Data Protection Act sets out eight ‘data protection principles’ or rules which all data controllers must follow. The Information Commissioner says that personal data must be:

  • Processed fairly and lawfully
  • Obtained for specified and lawful purposes and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes
  • Adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to those purposes for which they are processed
  • Accurate and, where necessary, kept up-to-date
  • Processed  in accordance with the rights of ‘data subjects’.

Additionally personal data must not be:

  • Kept longer than is necessary for the purposes for which they are processed
  • Transferred outside the European Economic Area unless adequate protection for the data in the receiving state is ensured.

And we must:

  • Take appropriate security measures to protect personal information, including preventing  unauthorised disclosure.

What information you are entitled to

You have a right to ask us for the personal information or data that we hold about you (a subject access request). This includes:

  • A description of the data being used
  • What its being used for
  • Who might see or use the information
  • Where the data comes from, if this is known; and
  • The identity of the data controller

Please note that you are entitled only to see the information itself, not any documents or records in which it might appear.

Some of the information we hold may be exempt from the Data Protection Act. For example, disclosing something which could interfere with how we provide an independent or impartial service. We will write to you if we think that such an exemption applies to your request and we will explain our reasons.

Please note that under the act we are not obliged to send all the information we hold on file.  There are certain exceptions to information that we would provide, for example if the information refers to a third party, or is supplied by a third party.

How we deal with a request for information

If you make a request we:

  • may ask for more information to confirm your identity and to clarify what information you require
  • will charge a £10 administration fee
  • will let you know if we do not have the information you have requested
  • consider any exemptions to providing the information that apply
  • aim to comply as soon as possible and at the latest within 40 calendar days from receipt and clearance of the administration fee

Although we are committed to providing the information you have asked for, there may be occasions when your request results in so much work or expense for us that we cannot help you. If this is the case we will explain our reasons to you as soon as possible.

Freedom of Information Act 2000

Schedule One of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FIOA) lists the public bodies which must comply with its provisions. The Housing Ombudsman Service is not included. However, the Ombudsman has decided that the Service will follow the terms of the Act voluntarily whenever possible.

The Publication Scheme for the Housing Ombudsman Service includes all policies, procedures, position statements and other general information which describes its operational  environment.

In line with the FOIA provisions, the Ombudsman may charge a fee for information requested which is not already in the public domain but we will not always do so. If we do make a charge the level will depend upon the cost and burden involved in dealing with the request. Our minimum fee to include photocopying and postage is £10. We may also refuse a request if the information is sensitive or the costs are too high (usually above £450). We will let you know how much it is before we deal with your request.

Certain information will not be included if the Ombudsman considers it to fall under one of the exemptions specified by the terms of the FOIA which apply to all the listed bodies. An example of this would be casework information connected with a particular complaint or dispute which the Ombudsman must handle within the rules of confidentiality and data protection, and use only for the purposes for which it was gathered.

We will respond to a request for information as soon as possible and at the latest within 20 working days. Please note if we decide to charge a fee we will not start work on your request until the payment has been received and cleared.

To request information under the Data Protection Act 1998 or Freedom of Information Act 2000

  • Please do so in writing/email
  • Include your  name and address
  • A description of the information or documents you would like to see
  • How you would like the information sent to you. (For example, on paper or via email.
  • Send your request to:

The Housing Ombudsman Service
Exchange Tower
Harbour Exchange Square
London
E14 9GE

Or:

Email to  info@housing-ombudsman.org.uk

If you are dissatisfied with our decision on your request.

If you are dissatisfied with our decision on your request for information you can first discuss your concerns with the person who dealt with your request.

If this informal discussion does not resolve the matter you can ask for a senior member of staff to review your request. If so, please contact us in writing or send an email to:

The Housing Ombudsman Service
Exchange Tower
Harbour Exchange Square
London
E14 9GE

info@housing-ombudsman.org.uk

If you remain dissatisfied you have the right to apply to the Information Commissioner for a decision as to whether we have dealt with your request for information in accordance with our legal responsibilities.

The Information Commissioner
Wycliffe House
Walter Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

ico.org.uk