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Freedom of information

Your rights of access

As a public authority, HCA is required to comply with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) and the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA).

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) provides the right of access to recorded information held by a public authority. It applies to all categories of information held, with the exception of environmental information and your own personal data.

The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) provides the right of access to recorded information that relates to the environment.

The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) provides you with the right to access information that relates to you personally (your “personal data”). The right of access and the processes we need to consider are different to those for official information. Please read Making a Subject Access Request (below) for guidance.

Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations

This section provides a guide on how HCA aims to meet its obligations in respect of FOIA and EIR. It explains what categories of information we make available, how you may go about making a request for information, and what to do if you are not happy with the response we provide to you.   

Information we make routinely available

Under both the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations, HCA has a duty to proactively publish certain classes of information as part of a Publication Scheme.

HCA is committed to compliance with the requirements of the Publication Scheme, and aims to make as much information as possible available. Our Publication Scheme page has details of the categories of information we publish.

In addition to the Publication Scheme, HCA is committed to compliance with the government’s Transparency Agenda, and we publish a large amount of information relating to HCA’s activities and spend on a regular basis.

We are also in the process of developing a Disclosure Log, which will publish summaries of the requests received by the HCA.

Making a request for information

Before you make a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act or Environmental Information Regulations it is important that you consider the following:

  1. Search  - if you have access to the internet, have you checked whether the information you would like to request is already available on our website? The navigation tools across the top and bottom banners of our website should assist you in finding the information you are looking for. In addition, our website has a search facility.

  2. Do you have a routine enquiry about the HCA? – e.g. office locations, telephone numbers, the services we provide? If this is the case, please contact us on 0300 1234 500, or via email to mail@homesandcommunities.co.uk. This will enable us to deal with your enquiry much quicker. 

  3. Are you requesting information about yourself?  - if this is the case, the information will fall under the rules of the Data Protection Act. Please see Making a Subject Access Request (below) for guidance.

If none of the above assists you in finding the information you need, you can make a formal request for information.

The Freedom of Information Act states that requests must:

  • Be made in writing (for example, letter or email);
  • State your name and the address for correspondence;
  • Clearly describe the information requested.

You should also express a preference as to how you wish to have the information communicated to you, i.e. via electronic means or hard copy.

The EIR do not state that a request must be made in writing. Should you wish to make a verbal request for environmental information only, please contact the enquiries team on 020 7874 8288. However, for the purposes of clarity, you may wish to put your request in writing.

When making your request it is not necessary for you to know which piece of legislation to quote. It is HCA’s responsibility to make sure that disclosure is considered under the correct regime. You do not need to mention the FOIA or EIR when making your request, although doing so can help us more effectively identify and process your request. 

If you experience any difficulty in making your request please contact the enquiries team who will be happy to provide any advice and assistance.

HCA aims to acknowledge all requests for information within 5 working days of receipt. As such, if you have not received an acknowledgement from us within this time, please contact us to make sure that we have received your request.

Both the FOIA and EIR require public authorities to respond to requests within 20 working days. As such, you should receive a final response to your request within this time.

However, in certain circumstances it may not be possible to respond fully within 20 working days. If this is the case we will contact you to explain why and provide you with a revised deadline.  

How we handle requests

On receipt of your request we will investigate whether we hold the information you are seeking and whether there is any reason why we cannot make it available to you.

As part of this process we may consult with third parties or other individuals / organisations outside the HCA who may be affected by disclosure.

If we do not hold the information you are seeking, we will write to you to advise you. If we know where you may be able to find the information we will provide you with details of who to contact.

If we cannot consider your request because we are unsure what you are seeking or the request is too broad, we will contact you for clarification. If we have asked you to supply further details about your request, your request will not be processed until we receive the further details.

If we hold the information we will usually be able to make it available to you. However, sometimes information may be exempt from disclosure. If this is the case, we will explain what exemption we have used and our reasons as to why we think it applies. If you disagree with our decision to withhold information, you may ask for an Internal Review (see below).

Fees we charge

There is no charge for making a request under the Freedom of Information Act or Environmental Information Regulations. We will not charge when we refuse a request for information, and there are no charges for requesting an internal review.

Under the Freedom of Information Act there is a “cost limit” which, for HCA, is calculated at £25 per hour officer time up to a maximum of £450 (18 hours). This does not mean that you will be charged for the costs incurred: there is no charge for work carried out within the 18 hour limit, and if we think we will exceed the limit we will contact you for your clarification.

However, although there is not normally a fee and whilst we endeavour to make information available without charge, we do retain the right to charge for disbursements such as printing or photocopying. Photocopying / printing fees are set at 10p per A4 sheet, with the first 100 sheets provided without charge. If your request does attract a fee we will contact you before any costs are incurred to see if you wish to proceed with the request. 

A fee does apply for Data Protection Subject Access Requests. Please see Making a Subject Access Request (below) for more information.

What to do if you are unhappy with the way in which we have responded to your request

If you are unhappy about the way in which HCA has responded to your FOIA or EIR request, you may ask for an internal review. If you remain dissatisfied following the outcome of the internal review you have a further right of appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

You may request an internal review if you want HCA to review its decision to withhold information or if you are dissatisfied with the way in which your request was handled.

The review process allows for your request to be looked at afresh, by someone who was not involved in the original processing of your request.

We ask that you submit your internal review request within 2 calendar months of the date of our response. We will in turn aim to complete the internal review within 20 working days. If this is not possible, we will contact you within this time to advise you when you may expect a response.

Requests for internal review should be addressed to:

Head of Legal Services
Homes and Communities Agency
Maple House
149 Tottenham Court Road
London
W1T 7BN

Alternatively, you may submit your internal review request via email to mail@homesandcommunities.co.uk. Please ensure that your email is clearly marked “FOIA Internal Review Request” to ensure that it is handled without delay.

If you are still not satisfied with our response, you may contact the Information Commissioner’s Office. The Information Commissioner is the independent body responsible for ensuring compliance with FOIA and EIR. Please contact:

Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

www.ico.gov.uk

Right of Access to information held by Housing Associations

Whether or not an organisation is subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is determined by legislation. Those organisations that are subject to FOIA are listed in the Act itself:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/36/schedule/1

Housing Associations are not currently subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Therefore, they do not have a statutory obligation to respond to requests for information made under FOIA.

However, although housing associations are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, decisions of the Information Commissioner’s Office have suggested that they may be subject to the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR).

HCA cannot provide legal advice on the individual application of the legislation to particular organisations. If you would like guidance on this, or any other information law related matter, please contact the Information Commissioner’s Office:

Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

www.ico.gov.uk

Making a Subject Access Request

The subject access provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) provide you with the right to access your own personal information.

If you would like to make a subject access request, please contact:

Information Access Officer
Homes and Communities Agency
Maple House
149 Tottenham Court Road
London
W1T 7BN

Subject access requests are subject to a £10 fee, which must be paid in full before research can be undertaken. Applicants will also be required to supply sufficient information to enable us to locate the data, and provide valid proof of identity. Under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998 we will not release personal information to third parties without the written consent of the data subject(s).

Accessibility

HCA is able to publish information in English only. Should you require assistance in another language, please contact the enquiries team who will be able to advise whether this is possible. The HCA is contributed to equal opportunities and will provide appropriate assistance to persons who consider themselves to have a disability. Should you require assistance in accessing our publication scheme or making a request for information, please contact the enquiries team.

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