Reviewing long term empty properties

The 2017 Local Government Finance Statistical Release reported that there were a total of 443,000 empty dwellings across England in September 2016. Of these, 59,000 (13%) dwellings were subject to an additional premium because the dwelling had been empty for 2 years or more.

To help tackle the shortfall in national housing, the Council, together with Northgate Public Services Public Services is undertaking an evidence based review of empty properties, using a combination of Council data, third party data sources and specialist validation services. This is to:

  • Reaffirm the discount for genuine claimants efficiently and accurately.
  • Remove ineligible or erroneous claims.
  • Fulfil our duty to maintain accurate records for Council Tax.

I have a question about the letter I've received - who do I contact?

You need to call Northgate Public Services, on 01274 989166. This line is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm

Who are Northgate Public Services?

Northgate Public Services are a well-known, reputable company who specialise in the provision of revenues and benefits software, carry out revenues and benefits processing work for many local authorities nationally. They employ highly experienced staff to carry out this work and have successfully conducted many empty property reviews.

How can Northgate Public Services Public Services undertake this review for us?

This is done in accordance with the Local Authorities (Contracting out of Tax Billing, Collection and Enforcement Functions) Order 1996 – SI1996/1880, Section 12 – Ascertaining entitlement to discounts.

How do Northgate Public Services Public Services and Experian check the validity of the empty property discount?

In order to do this, all the accounts that are currently in receipt of an empty property discount are passed to Experian who do a search against the property and not the individual. No Credit Checks are undertaken against an individual. Experian then compare these addresses against a variety of data sources including:

  • The Electoral Register (full or edited, dependant on reason for use)
  • Credit Account Information Sharing (CAIS) file.
  • Credit Application Previous Search information (CAPS)
  • Address Links
  • Mortality Data
  • Alias and Associations Data

What information do Experian provide to Northgate Public Services Public Services (and ultimately Bradford Council)?

The Empty Property Verification Service provided by Experian provides a picture of the residency make up of an address. This allows Northgate Public Services to identify potential residents and by doing so, engage with households where the properties could potentially be subject to Council Tax charges or not entitled to discounts due to non-occupancy. Experian provides the following information:

  • A risk Indicator, ie High, Medium, Low or blank to indicate nil risk
  • The details of up to 5 potential residents; this includes:
    1. Name and date of birth (High and Medium risk cases only)
    2. Residency start and confirmations date
    3. Residency Score

Northgate Public Services are not provided with an indication of what type of records have associated the adult to the property eg electoral register, address links etc.

Does this not breach the Data Protection Act?

All personal data is processed securely and in compliance with the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998. It is used under s29 (1) (a) - the prevention and detection of crime and s29 (1)(c) - the assessment or collection of any tax or duty or of any imposition of a similar nature.

Northgate Public Services do not hold on to the data for any longer than necessary. When the review is complete all data, whether it is in a paper or electronic format, will be securely destroyed.

Is my personal data safe?

Northgate Public Services takes information security and secure handling and transfer of data very seriously. Northgate Public Services operates under an information security management system which is certified to the international recognised standard ISO27001:2013 and in accordance with the code of practice for information security controls ISO27002:2013. All staff involved in the process are security vetted to the Government baseline standard and are fully trained in information security and data protection.

The address shown on the envelope for returning the form has a Twickenham address. Is this correct?

The Twickenham address is a postal imaging centre employed by Northgate Public Services to ensure that all correspondence is dealt with as efficiently and securely as possible. The centre is responsible for the posting out of all correspondence and dealing with replies. All forms once received, are scanned and returned to Bradford Council. Any images held are destroyed so no data is held longer than is necessary.

The canvass/reminder form makes reference to the Council enforcing a penalty. Is this allowed?

Yes. The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 make provision whereby an authority may make a written request for information to determine who is liable for the Council Tax for each of the dwellings in their area. A person who appears to the authority to be a resident, owner or managing agent of a particular dwelling is required to supply specified information so long as:

  • It is in their possession or control.
  • The authority makes a written request (by notice) for it.
  • It is required only for the purpose of identifying the liable person(s) for the dwelling for the period concerned.

The Local Government Finance Act 1992 grants billing authorities the power to impose a civil penalty where the resident, owner or managing agent, served with a notice detailed above, fails to comply with its requirements.

I have received a visit from a visiting officer in relation to the empty property review. Is this genuine?

Northgate Public Services partner with an external agency to determine the occupancy status of a property for those who have not responded to Northgate Public Services’ request for information. This is also done in accordance with the Local Authorities (Contracting Out of Tax Billing, Collection and Enforcement Functions) Order 1996 - SI1996/1880, Section 12 - Ascertaining entitlement to discounts.

I own an empty property - is there any help available to bring it back in to use?

Yes - for more information about empty properties and what help is available to bring them back in to use, please see the empty homes area of our website.

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