HOMEOWNERS could be stung with higher council tax bills because a popular property search website is sharing details of their homes with the Government.
A local politician has claimed the website Rightmove is allowing data on 16m homes to be accessed by HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC).
Kevin Hollinrake said information, including internal and external photographs of homes and the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, conservatories and parking spaces, was being shared with the Government to help it calculate council tax bandings.
The Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Dewsbury said: “We already knew that Gordon Brown’s tax inspectors had recklessly lost the records of millions of law-abiding citizens.
“Now the same people are disregarding data protection rules to build up a chilling database of every home in the country,” he claimed.
“This is council tax revaluation on the cheap.
“It’s an easy way to squeeze every last penny out of the householder – I don’t think anyone is going to be moved down a band as a result.”
Mr Hollinrake said estate agents gave property details to Rightmove, which in turn shared them with HMRC.
He said: “Rightmove has built the most powerful property website in the UK and it is prepared to sell that data on.”
Mr Hollinrake, himself an estate agent, based in York, added that estate agents are unaware that information they give to Rightmove is ending up in the Government’s hands.
He said: “It’s totally unwitting on the part of estate agents.
“I don’t think homeowners are aware of it either.
“Residents across Kirklees will be alarmed that detailed information on nine out of 10 house sales and rentals is being passed secretly from estate agents to tax collectors without public consent.”
Mr Hollinrake called on the Government to end the contract with Rightmove.
He said: “Gordon Brown must cancel this deal immediately. Only Conservatives will stop this plundering of data on people’s private homes, end Brown’s stealth tax revaluation and abolish state inspectors’ right to enter our homes.”
A Rightmove spokeswoman confirmed the website had a contract with the Government.
She said: “We provide access to some of our published data to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) of the HMRC. This is done under the terms of a contract signed in 2005 and fully disclosed at the time of the Rightmove flotation in 2006.
“The agreement allows the VOA to access data as part of its work in maintaining accurate council tax bandings. This reduces the need to visit properties.
“All data provided to the VOA has been fully and publicly available on the Rightmove website.”
The Information Commissioner’s public Data Protection Register does show Rightmove plc to be registered, among other data purposes, for the trading and sharing of personal details. These include the family, lifestyle and social circumstances of its staff, customers and clients.
The Data Protection Act gives people a right to be informed by those holding personal data if any such data is being processed about them.
When giving details, people can usually choose whether to opt in to their data being passed on to third parties, for example by an estate agent to another data company.