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How to make a Subject Access Request

Under the Data Protection Act 1998 an individual has a right to have access to information that is held by companies and organisations


For more information see  www.ico.org.uk


After you have tried everything else you may feel that you have no other option but to make a claim against you house builder for compensation in the County Court.


Before doing so, it would be useful to gather evidence to support your claim. You can obtain copies of all the information your house builder has in their ‘Plot File’ that relates to you and your home. You have a legal right to this information under the Data Protection Act 1998.  In order to receive all this information you need to make a formal Subject Access Request to the house builder. This is quite straight forward see: Subject Access Request template letter


Post your request letter together with a cheque for £10 by recorded delivery. You need to pay £10, which is the maximum amount stipulated in the DPA 1998, and the builder then has 40 days to comply. Failure to comply with your request is a clear breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.


The builder will then send you your entire Plot or Home File which will contain all sorts of useful information including internal emails - even e-mails between directors if they are about you and/or your home.


The information may include letters saying things about specific items such as:

"We cannot tell him what is our normal practice etc or what tends to happen on site. We must tell him what the official regulations and standards are and ensure that the installation is fully compliant"  or  "If we keep refusing, eventually he will give up"


One of the best examples was exposed in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme. Below is the e-mail that a new homebuyer received after making a Subject Access Request to Bovis. It clearly shows that Bovis were "going to doctor" an independent report.











You might also be able to find out how much profit they made on your home and how much they spent putting on remedial works and customer care. However, information deemed to be of a 'commercially sensitive' nature isn’t required to be included.


The information will significantly help you if you are considering a claim for compensation. This is a great way of getting information, especially if you are considering going to court.


Most companies run scared of the ICO, but if they fail to comply with your request within the 40 day stipulated period, you should formally complain to the ICO regarding the house builder’s non-compliance about a Data Protection Issue. However, it may take the ICO over a year to investigate.


You will also have the satisfaction of knowing that it will cost house builders around £27 to post the information to you and that someone will have to go through the entire file and e mail histories, crossing out 3rd party email addresses and the like. £10 well spent!


Remember it will only cost you a maximum of £10 and the price of a stamp. It will be a huge inconvenience to your builder, costing them a great deal more finding, copying and posting you the information.


This may also be a great way of lodging a protest against bad workmanship and ongoing poor service. Imagine if everyone who had a problem on a particular development all made Subject Access Requests to the house builder it would be sure to get their senior director’s attention.


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Making a Subject Access Request