Privacy Act Changes for Property Managers

Privacy Act Changes for property managers

Changes have been imposed on all landlords and property managers concerning the privacy of tenant data and personal information as per the Privacy Act 2020. The below posts outlines how this impacts our process when finding you a tenant.

What is changing? 

The Office of the Privacy Commission (OPC) – is now taking a proactive approach, rather than a reactive approach, to privacy in line with the Privacy Act 2020. 

They have stated that they “want to make it easy for landlords and property managers to know what information they should and shouldn’t collect so they can build trust and get things right from the start of the tenancy relationship.”

Their goal is to ensure that landlords are following the 13 privacy principles outlined in the Privacy Act. (See privacy principles here).

They have released guidelines on how we can adhere to the Privacy Act, and this email is to explain how these will impact you. 

What is the purpose of the new privacy changes?

  • To ensure tenants are fully informed of what is collected and why
  • To prevent mass collection of unnecessary data
  • To ensure the security of the data that is collected
  • To ensure that tenants can access the information stored about them
  • To ensure that information is held for the minimum amount of time needed
  • To ensure that companies have a process to deal with privacy breaches

How will they ensure compliance? 

The shift from reactive to proactive means rather than responding only to complaints, the OPC will now be carrying out the below to ensure compliance:

  • Mystery customers
  • Audits
  • Surveys
  • Investigation of complaints
  • Request to review processes
  • Ensuring staff within an organisation have enough educational training

Audits will include:

  • Reviewing our privacy policy 
  • Reviewing our staff training 
  • Reviewing what data we share with 3rd parties
  • Reviewing our disposal of data

What does this mean for you? 

We now have to collect tenant applications in two stages, which will take longer. This means it will be important that decisions on prospective tenants are made quickly once we have all of the information. 

Stage 1 – General applicants.

Tenants are asked to provide a basic/limited set of information about themselves rather than a complete application. 

Stage 2 – Preferred applicants.

We can then select up to three preferred applicants who are asked to provide their full application. 

This two-stage process is designed to stop landlords and property managers collecting large data sets for people who are unlikely to get the property. 

We are no longer allowed to send you the full application by email. The reason for this is that this data needs to be stored securely, and if the data is leaked/hacked/used to breach the privacy act, all parties are liable, so we would be held responsible for having sent this to you if your emails were compromised, or if you misused the data.

Our process for gaining your approval is to phone you when we have a suitable applicant, and we can still run you through the relevant information by phone and let you know who will be renting your property. 

For landlords not reachable by phone, we can provide a brief overview by email without sensitive information such as IDs, credit reports, date of birth, etc. 

The changes mean that the tenant approval stage will remain the same for most clients. A phone call and email confirmation containing information around any special clauses, pets, occupancy, rent and term.

Employment status has been removed from the application, and the tenant needs to provide evidence that they can pay the rent (we can collect only one piece of evidence). 

The OPC is taking the position that the property manager is the professional hired to select the tenant on your behalf, so we are the only ones who need to see the sensitive data. As owners are listed on the tenancy agreement we believe this information is relevant to the owners provided it is only given out at the final stage and provided in a manner that does not create a digital record, I.e. A phone call. This is also using the information for the legal purpose for which it was collected.   

Many companies interpret the guidelines differently, with some refusing to give property owners the names of the prospective and even final tenants. We have taken a more landlord-focused position on the guidelines and believe that a landlord has a right to know who is living in their rental property. 

The OPC’s original focus was to prevent the mass collection and poor storage of sensitive data, and our updated process reflects this. 

We will provide you with another update if any of the above has to change as the OPC continues to engage with the industry and provide additional guidance (nee restrictions) on the industry’s process. 

Below you can find further reading on the guidance for landlords. Please note the section on what landlords are not allowed to collect.

Privacy office factsheet for landlords and property managers – Link

Privacy office guidance document – Link

What should landlords not collect?

When selecting tenants, a landlord should never ask for: personal characteristics protected under the Human Rights Act:

  • sex (including pregnancy or childbirth)
  • relationship or family status
  • political opinion or religious or ethical belief
  • colour, race, or ethnicity (including nationality or citizenship)
  • physical or mental disability or illness
  • age (other than whether the tenant is over 18)
  • employment status (being unemployed, on a benefit or on ACC)
  • sexual orientation or gender identity
  • whether the tenants have experienced or are experiencing family violence
  • tenants’ spending habits (e.g. bank statements showing transactions)
  • employment history
  • social media URLs

Source (Landlord Factsheet – link above)

If you have any questions about any of the above please feel free to contact us or if you feel like your current property manager is misinterpreting the guidelines and leaving you in the dark please reach out to find out how easy switching can be.

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