Image by Bobafred: the word INFO and braille beneath it

Using Freedom of Information

What is Freedom of Information?

The Freedom of Information Act is a law. It gives you the right to ask authorities for information.

In most cases, if the authority has the information you ask for, they must provide it.

The FOI Act covers many government or public authorities, including all councils and some housing associations. You can check here to see if your landlord is one of them.

How can I use FOI?

As a tower block tenant, you might find FOI useful when you’ve been unsuccessful in getting answers any other way.

Perhaps you’ve written to your landlord but had no reply, or received a reply that didn’t really answer your question.

Using FOI, you can ask for information, documents or data. That could include things like fire safety assessments, correspondence, contracts, statistics, etc.

You might use these to find out things like:

  • What materials were used in the construction of my tower block?
  • When was the last fire safety assessment carried out?
  • Have there been any reports into the safety of my tower block in the past?

You can only ask for information or data that the authority already holds, and you can’t ask for personal information (if you want to do that, you’ll need to submit a Subject Access Request).

How can I make an FOI request?

There is a website called WhatDoTheyKnow which makes it very easy.

Visit WhatDoTheyKnow now.

You can read more about how to use it on their Help page.

When you make an FOI request on WhatDoTheyKnow, the request and the answer is published online, so that other people can find the information in the future. This can be helpful for other people living in your block, or living in blocks with similar issues.

In fact, before you make your request, it might be worth searching WhatDoTheyKnow to see if anyone else has already asked your question. That would save you the time and effort.

What are EIR requests?

EIR stands for ‘Environment Information Regulations’. Like FOI, EIR gives you the right to information, but it applies only to information around the environment.

How can I use EIR requests?

For the sake of this regulation, ‘the environment‘ is defined very loosely: for example it may include information about health and safety or recycling and rubbish disposal, areas about which it can be useful to access information, as a tower block tenant.

It tends to be slightly easier to get information through the EIR than via FOI, as it leans more on the side of disclosure.

In 2021, the Information Commissioner ruled that a council should release fire safety reports under the EIR. When a court case makes a decision like this, it can be used as an example for why future requests should be treated the same way.

How can I make an EIR request?

You can also make EIR requests through, in exactly the same way you would make an FOI request. Just mention in your letter that you are requesting information through the EIR.

If you are asking for fire safety reports, you could link to the ruling mentioned above, to demonstrate that there is a precedent for this.

Related guides

A woman throwing paper planes A woman throwing paper planes

Tools you can use

Contacting your landlord

Tips and letter templates to help you communicate with your landlord when there’s something wrong, or you want to find out more.
Two people in front of a wrold map. One is filming the other in an interview. Two people in front of a wrold map. One is filming the other in an interview.

Tools you can use

Contacting the media

Sometimes, if you’re not getting results through any other means, it can help to get some coverage in the local – or even national – press.
Two women discussing over a laptoip. Image by WOCintechchat Two women discussing over a laptoip. Image by WOCintechchat

Tools you can use

Starting or joining a Residents’ Association or an Action Group

Joining together with other residents in your block or community can make you much more powerful.

Image credit