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Need advice re: Data Protection Act

(6 Posts)
stupidgreatgrinonmyface Sun 14-Aug-11 15:28:33

I'll try to keep this short.
My mum has been a council tenant for over 50 years. never any problems. Last year someone called to do a 'tenant check'. She answered their questions, which seemed, to her, fair and reasonable, however, afterwards she became concerned and called the council to confirm it had all been above board. They said it was and told her that they do not have to give notice of these checks as that would defeat the object. I can understand that, since I imagine part of the reason for them is to confirm that properties are not being sub-let illegally. She did not mention this to either my sister or me until today.

So, a couple of weeks ago, she was again 'tenant checked'. Again, no warning, just somebody knocking on the door, cold calling if you like. She was shown a card which she says looked ok, so they came in and asked her questions. Except this time, questions included things like wanting to know her NI number and that of my Step-Dad who died over 4 years ago. They also asked dates of birth (hers, ok, but why did they need the DOB of a dead man?), wanted to know her religion and her sexual orientation? They also asked to see a credit card with her signature as well as a passport if she had one (she doesn't).

My concern is that a lot of this information just does not sound relevant to her tenancy. As well as being extremely intrusive. I have had serious words with her about never letting anyone in the house and always doing an independent check by calling the office these people claim to be from, but of course, at over 70 years of age, she is of a generation where if she perceives someone to have any form of authority, she doesn't question it.

My intention is to go to her home in the morning and contact the council myself to get to the bottom of this. Obviously I am concerned that this is some sort of scam and if it turns out to be so, I will be contacting the police, banks etc to try to safeguard her finances etc. But if it turns out to be genuine, I need to know whether these questions were reasonable? I have looked at the DPA website, and my understanding is that they were not, especially as she was told they were compulsory, but where do we go from there? Can she inform them that in future she will not answer these tenant checks? It seems very wrong to me that in this day and age, the LA can send people to visit their tenants, especially elderly ones, with no prior warning and make them answer such questions?

Anybody have any advice for me?
Thanks.

VirgoGrr Sun 14-Aug-11 15:34:54

I think you need to be taking this further with the Council. I'd be concerned too about the nature of the questioning and what happens with her personal information.

I dont have any experience of council tenancy, but surely if they require access to the property, I would expect it to be as a standard tenancy agreement that they should give at least 24 hours notice. Just turning up on a pensioners doorstep to perform this kind of check seems a little peculiar.

Gonzo33 Sun 14-Aug-11 15:39:44

I would call the council. Something doesn't sound right there. Someone may be able to advise you on here better if they work for a council but I would be very nervous about that. Quite why they would need NI numbers is beyond me unless they were from the DWP, but I still cannot see why they would need your deceased SD's details.

Tyr Sun 14-Aug-11 15:51:27

First of all, I would complain via your MP. If you want to make a Subject Data Access request, write to them asking for copies of all information and correspondence on which you are named or which relate to your tenancy. Enclose a cheque or PO for £10 (the standard fee) They have 40 days to comply. If they don't, contact the Information Commissioners Office who will compel them to do so.
That being said, I would just go with the complaint.

fanjobiscuit Sun 14-Aug-11 15:52:04

Could it have been something like this? Seems some councils are collecting photo IDs hence passport /signature request.

Doesnt explain totally why they would need a ni number though

stupidgreatgrinonmyface Sun 14-Aug-11 16:49:02

Thank you for the speedy responses.
VirgoGrr, yes, I am very concerned about the nature of the questions she was asked. I said to her that I thought she should have been given a standard 24 hours notice, but she said that when she contacted them last year they said it was not possible to do this when they are checking to make sure the correct person is in the house, not a sub-tenant. I can sort of see their POV, but still think that when we are talking about a pensioner over 70 years of age, there should be an alternative way of collecting the informatin they need.

Gonzo33, I am going to be on her doorstep at 9am tomorrow so i can make this call with her present. I fully expect they will refuse to discuss it with me, due to 'data Protection ( oh, the irony!) but I hope that she will be able to give them permission to discuss it with me. Failing that, I will be taking her along to the council offices to see them.

Tyr if it turns out that this was genuine, I will most certainly be complaining via the MP, since I really cannot see what relevance her religion, sexual tendencies or indeed my Sds NI no have to her tenancy.

fanjobiscuit Thanks for the link. I would have agreed it was a possibility if only the person had refused to accept her bus pass as ID and said only her signed credit card would do. Also, no need to have asked for my SDs passport since he clearly no longer lives at the address, or indeed any address unless you count the local crematorium!

The more I think about this, the more concerned I am that this was in fact, a scam of some sort. I just hope that if it is, we are able to get hold of banks etc before any major damage is done there.

The stupid thing is, whenever she reads about this sort of thing in the local rag, she can't believe anyone was so stupid as to let strangers into their homes!

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