What homeowners can and can’t ask for

“This is not about fighting to beat them,” said the Privacy Commissioner of the new directions for the rental industry that we have been working on all year.

John Edwards said: “Everyone knows where it is. This is an educational phase. Now we have moved on to the enforcement or compliance phase. “

The owners mainly owned one to two properties “and there will be some who will not get the message,” he warned.

Landlords cannot ask tenants for information about personal characteristics protected by the Human Rights Act.

This includes questions about relationships or family status, political opinions or religious or ethical beliefs, color, race or ethnicity, physical or mental disability or illness and age, unless the tenant is over 18 years old.

Landlords also cannot collect information on employment status or whether a person is unemployed, on allowance or on ACC, sexual orientation or gender identity, if tenants have undergone or are currently experiencing domestic violence, spending habits like requesting bank statements showing transactions, work history or social media URLs.

“When selecting tenants, a landlord should never ask [these things]”, say the new guidelines.

Privacy Commission on what homeowners can and can’t do. (Photo / provided)

The test should always be “Do I need the information for lawful purposes related to finding tenants and managing tenancies?” Said the office owner’s fact sheet.

Landlords can ask tenants for their name and contact details, identification, if they are 18 or over, the number of people who will be living in the property and the occupants.

Owner contact details and references can be searched, as well as consent for a credit report and criminal record check.

Pet ownership, plans to smoke, and whether someone can be legally in New Zealand during the rental are other things that are allowed.

The office today launched a new compliance monitoring program to ensure owners, managers and agencies do not violate the Privacy Act.

The office will perform regular rental agency audits, as well as an annual survey to verify application forms, contract forms, and privacy policies of rental agencies, property managers, and third-party service providers.

Tenants and potential tenants should have confidence in the way their personal information has been collected, used, stored and disclosed by their landlord or property manager, Edwards said.

A new anonymous whistleblower line has been established.  Photo / provided

A new anonymous whistleblower line has been established. (Photo / provided)

According to Stats NZ, New Zealand has 527,853 rental properties, of which 440,025 are owned by individuals. About 1.4 million New Zealanders are renters.

The office has an anonymous hotline for individuals to report concerns about the handling of personal information.

“As we enter this phase of compliance, rental industry agencies need to be aware of their obligations and responsibilities. There is now no excuse for the excessive collection and unauthorized use of personal information and there will be consequences for non-compliance, ”said Edwards.

“We have developed this guide to clarify the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords under the Privacy Act. The guide specifies what information can be requested at each stage of the rental process. We want to make it easy for property owners and managers to know what they should and shouldn’t be charged, and for potential tenants to understand what can and cannot be asked of them, ”he said. -he declares.

Property managers, landlords and tenant advocates were consulted in the development process. The office has also spoken strongly against bad tenant groups online, working with administrators to shut them down.

The Auckland Real Estate Investors Association welcomed the office relocations.

Kristin Sutherland, president of the association, said housing was an emotional issue.

The Privacy Office today released new landlord / tenant guidelines.  Photo / Doug Sherring

The Privacy Office today released new landlord / tenant guidelines. (Photo / Doug Sherring)

“These guidelines provide the industry with much needed certainty and go a long way in building trust between landlords and tenants,” she said.

The association was encouraged by the flexible and principled approach.

“It’s a far cry from the usual cumbersome homeowners expect from government agencies,” she said.

The guidelines set out what information landlords can and cannot request from tenants in most cases, while leaving enough room for further investigation in appropriate circumstances, she said.

“To me, this is recognition that leasing is not a cookie-cutter process. As long as owners operate within the 13 principles of the Privacy Act, they should be in. able to call and reduce their requests in a way that supports their rental business goals, ”Sutherland said.

The association intends to investigate the mechanisms of anonymous denunciation of tenants.

“We want to make sure this is an integrity system with proper controls in place so that it only addresses genuine privacy complaints rather than adding an unnecessary compliance burden on owners. .I don’t expect this to be a witch hunt against homeowners, but I want to be able to say it honestly to our members, ”she said.

Ruth R. Culp