New privacy guidelines welcomed
Monday 19 August 2019
Confusion over what information landlords can ask for when selecting tenants should be eased by a new set of guidelines from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC).
By Miriam Bell
The release of the OPC’s new guidelines today follows controversy over the original set of guidelines, which came out back in May.
They were intended to help landlords make decisions about what personal information it is reasonable to collect from prospective tenants.
But they were greeted with dismay by landlords and property managers who described them as confusing and contradictory in many areas.
There was particular concern about the restrictions around running credit checks on tenants and the prohibition on asking someone’s age and/or to see a drivers license number.
In response to the outcry, the OPC withdrew the guidelines in order to consult with industry representatives, like the NZPIF and REINZ, and rework them.
Now the revised guidelines are out and they have been welcomed by REINZ as being much clearer and simpler for the industry to follow.
REINZ chief executive Bindi Norwell says the new guidelines are much clearer as they specify the type of information that should and should not be collected at various stages of the tenant selection process.
“In the OPC’s view, collecting certain information becomes more justifiable as the process progresses and this is certainly something the industry agrees with.”
A good example of this is credit checks, which were an area of concern in the earlier guidelines. The new guidelines clarify that credit checks should only be carried out on preferred applicants.
Norwell says this might slow the process down slightly if the preferred candidates credit checks are not satisfactory, but the industry agrees it is prudent to check preferred candidates rather than all candidates.
Another area of confusion was whether or not it was possible whether applicants were over 18.
But Norwell says the new guidelines clearly state this is something potential tenants can be asked from the outset in order to ensure landlords and property managers are complying with their requirements under the Residential Tenancies Act.”
“We also welcome clarity on issues such as income verification/employment, smoking, expenses, and will be working with our members to communicate these updated standards in a timely manner.”
The collaborative approach taken by the OPC over the last few months while reviewing the guidelines was to be commended, Norwell adds.
*The Privacy Commissioner’s new guidelines on the collection on personal information by landlords can be read here.
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