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Tag: Housing

Your right to be forgotten

Think back to the last time you applied for a job. Did the application include a tick box question on criminal convictions?

Last year Unlock published research showing that three quarters of national employers still ask about criminal records on application forms. This can be off-putting to applicants with convictions and we don’t think it’s necessary for employers to ask this question so early on. Employers are responsible for deleting unnecessary information – whether its from applicants who don’t take the job, or employees who have left. This post looks at how you can request that your data is deleted when it’s no longer needed.

Deleting criminal records information

Where an organisation (known as a data controller) wants to process data about criminal convictions, they must have a lawful basis for doing so under Article 6 and a condition of processing under Article 10 of the GDPR. As a result of GDPR, organisations need to consider what information is necessary, and when. Here we’ll focus on employers but the same rules apply to any organisation that collects personal data – housing providers, colleges or universities, insurance companies. If you’re being asked to disclose information about convictions, you should be able to access the employer’s privacy policy which will tell you how long your data will be retained. Employers should delete information within these timescales.

However, a CIPHR survey found that this is not always happening as it should. 137 HR professionals were asked if they had published retention periods, and whether data was being deleted at the right time.  83% had published retention periods for data, but only 69% had actually deleted the information as they should have. More than half used paper notes or calendar reminders rather than automated systems to let them know when data should be deleted.

Where data protection breaches are proven, enforcement action could have serious consequences for organisations. The 30% of HR teams who admitted they had not deleted data as required were exposing their companies to significant financial penalties – the maximum fine now is £17.5 million or 4% of the company’s annual global turnover (whichever is higher).

What can you do?

The GDPR gives individuals rights over their data – we recently published guidance for individuals on this. When your information is no longer necessary, it should be securely destroyed. This is known as the right to erasure or the ‘right to be forgotten’ and means you have more power to hold data controllers to account. Where might you want to use your right to erasure?

If you have:

  • ticked the box on an application form for a job, for housing or a place at college or university
  • disclosed more detailed information during the recruitment process
  • provided your employer with a DBS certificate
  • disclosed an unspent conviction that has become spent
  • left a job where your criminal record information was collected during recruitment.

If any of these apply to you, consider asking the data controller to #deletemydata. You can download a template here.

Already done this? Tell us about it.

If they are unable or unwilling to resolve your concern, you can raise the matter with the Information Commissioners Office within three months of your last meaningful contact with them.

Homelessness and the Homelessness Reduction Act

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 came into force in England on the 3rd April this year. This is the biggest change to the rights of homeless people in England for 15 years.

We’ve produced some new information which sets out how the Act will work in practice.

The new law puts an obligation on prisons, youth offending teams and probation services (both Community Rehabilitation Companies and the National Probation Service) to refer people, (with their consent), to a local authority who they have a location connection with, if they are homeless or at risk of homelessness. This duty came into force on 1st October 2018.

As the ‘duty to refer’ is very new, we’re not sure how public authorities will do this. However, once it’s been established that you’re homeless or at risk of homelessness, then prisons, probation etc must refer you to a housing authority under section 213B of the Homelessness Reduction Act. You should ensure that if you’re in this position that you get help from the prison or probation. Don’t let them tell you that ‘it’s not their job’ or they ‘can’t deal with it’.

Whilst the new law is certainly a step in the right direction, we don’t believe that it contains enough detail or guidance to local authorities, especially around what happens to people leaving prison who have no local connection.

If you’ve identified yourself as homeless or at risk of homelessness and don’t feel that you’ve been adequately dealt with by the prison or probation, we’d like to hear from you. Please send details of your case to


Court makes it clear – spent convictions shouldn’t be taken into account for housing applications

In most areas of England & Wales, there are long waiting lists for social housing and more often than not, a shortage of housing stock.

To address this issue, some social housing providers will have restrictions on who can apply for housing. Providers may decide that houses or flats will only be offered to people who come from the local area, or that they will not house people with particular criminal histories, or that some types of accommodation are for people in particular age bands.

Social housing providers can decide who does and does not qualify to be added to the waiting list. People who do not qualify may for example include people convicted of selling drugs or those that have in the past been violent towards a member of council staff.

If you are applying for registration on the housing list, most application forms will ask about criminal records. Legally, you only need to disclose unspent convictions.

In the past, social housing providers have been guilty of asking applicants to provide them with Subject Access Requests, something which was made illegal in March 2015 (find out more here). Some providers continue to ask misleading questions, not making it clear that applicants only need disclose unspent convictions. As a result of this, it is possible that individuals could over disclose their criminal record and that some providers will take spent convictions into account.

But housing providers beware! Earlier this year, Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council were found to have acted unlawfully by basing its decision not to add an individual to its housing register on the fact that the claimant (YA) had a spent conviction.

YA was convicted of several offences between the ages of 12 and 15 including theft, criminal damage, assault and possession of Class A drugs. At the time of the offence, he was under the care of the council which was how they were aware of his background.

He applied to go on his local council housing register when he was aged 19 and, although the council acknowledged that his convictions were spent, they stated that he would not be eligible to be added to the register because:

  • His behaviour remained relevant even if the conviction resulting from it was spent
  • The behaviour included incidents which were ‘hardly minor matters’, which the council was entitled to take into account

The High Court found that:

  • The decision amounted to a breach of Section 4 (1) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
  • The decision was irrational

We see this is an extremely good result and it will no doubt have implications for other social housing providers.

The court have made it very clear that if you have spent convictions and are asked to disclose them, then you can treat the question as not being relevant to you.

In preventing themselves from future legal action, housing providers should make sure that if they’re asking applicants to disclose criminal records, they make it clear that spent criminal records do not need to be disclosed.

If you believe that your criminal record is having an impact on your ability to apply for social housing then we’d like to hear from you. Read more about the policy work we’re doing on this issue.

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information is available on our housing section
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Our policy work – Read about the policy work we’re doing on criminal records and social housing
  4. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact theHelpline.

People with convictions to be banned from joining Harlow Councils list

We’ve contributed to a discussion on BBC Essex, looking at the news that Harlow Council is seeking to amend their housing allocations policy which would mean that people with convictions would be banned from join the housing list.

You can listen to the interview below.

The was followed by an article in the Guardian, which we were cited in. Interestingly, it also included a Poll which asked “should criminals be excluded from applying for social housing?”. The results were that 72% said “No”, they shouldn’t. 


Police checks on potential council tenants

We’ve taken part in a radio discussion on BBC West Midlands to discuss a local council with a proposed policy of carrying out police checks on potential council tenants. This is available to listen to below (in two parts)

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