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Privacy Crackdown: What Does It Mean for Landlords?

Privacy Crackdown: What Does It Mean for Landlords? National Propertyscouts


New guidance on privacy for the rental sector has been in the works for the past year and as of March 2022, the Privacy Commission launched its compliance review. The aim of the review is to ensure no landlords, managers or agencies are in breach of the Privacy Act. 

So, what does this mean for property owners? 

The privacy guidelines have been put in place to provide tenants and prospective tenants with confidence in the way their personal information is managed. Investment property owners, therefore, need to be very careful about what information they seek, use, store and disclose. 

Here is a summary of what you can and can’t ask tenants for: 

What information CAN you ask for?

  • Their name

  • Contact information

  • Proof of identity

  • If they are over 18 years old

  • The number of people who will live at the property

  • The occupants of the property

  • Contact details and landlord references

  • Consent for a credit report and criminal record check

  • Pet ownership

  • Plans about smoking

  • Legal ability to be in New Zealand during the tenancy

Important note: When arranging property viewings you can only collect name and contact information. Prospective tenants can be given the option of completing a full application prior to a viewing, but you cannot require them to do so - if you do, you’ll be in breach of your Privacy Act obligations and can be fined. 

What information CAN’T you ask for?

Under the new guidelines, if you don’t need the information for lawful purposes connected to finding and managing tenancies, you should never ask for the following information. This includes personal characteristics protected under the Human Rights Act.

  • Relationships and family status

  • Political opinions

  • Religious or ethical beliefs

  • Colour, race, or ethnicity

  • Physical or mental disability/illness

  • Precise age (as noted above, you CAN ask if they are over 18)

  • Employment status (or unemployment status)

  • If they are on the benefit or ACC

  • Sexual orientation or gender identity

  • If tenants have experienced or are suffering family violence

  • Spending habits (you cannot ask for transactional bank statements, employment history, or social media URLs) 

In the appropriate circumstances, there is scope for further enquiries to be made. If in doubt, here is the Privacy Act 2020: Landlord Fact Sheet you can refer to.  

Ultimately, it is important to ensure you are following the correct procedures, or else you are likely to face consequences. Tenants have the right to ask if you have information stored about them and request to see it. Again, in some circumstances, you can withhold information, however, you will need to disclose your reasons for doing so and tenants will be able to lay a complaint against you if they don’t believe your reasons are valid.  

To view the full guidelines and resources for both landlords and tenants, click here: https://www.privacy.org.nz/your-rights/renting/?fbclid=IwAR0UVRTWasNzoTaeWyPe7U8Rfy3-ePe5DWaDsyJzSwBTK6R9rK1ssnYgy6Y

 

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DISCLAIMER: The above advice is written by Propertyscouts New Zealand (2020) Limited and is intended as a broad guide for educational purposes only. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. In all instances, you should make your own inquiries and seek independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions.

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