Privacy Commission to crack down on landlords collecting intrusive information

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Property managers and landlords are frequently collecting inappropriate and invasive information from prospective tenants, a renters advocacy group says.

The Privacy Commission is cracking down on property managers and landlords breaching the Privacy Act.

Renters groups call the industry a 'wild west' with little regulation or oversight for how property managers and landlords conduct their business.

Renters United spokesperson Ashok Jacob told Nine to Noon landlords and property managers were doing what they thought they could get away with.

Tenants were being asked to provide information on their race, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliations and whether they intended to have children.

Some landlords and property managers requests were questionable when it came to privacy law, he said.

"New Zealand is uniquely unregulated when it comes to the rental market and so there's this real culture of property managers and landlords just doing what they think they won't get caught doing, no matter whether or not it's legal."

The Privacy Commission would start taking enforcement action against errant landlords and property managers from March as part of a crackdown on Privacy Act breaches.

Renters United had assisted the commission by passing on reports it had received of tenants being asked to provide invasive information.

Deputy Privacy Commissioner Liz MacPherson said the commission had worked with landlords and renters advocates to improve the situation, which had some effect.

But it was clear there had been too much information gathered in the past, she said.

Those who continued to flout the law could face a fine of up to $10,000.

"With the imbalance of power in the market at the moment caused by supply and demand issues, tenants don't tend to complain to us," MacPherson said.

"So proactively from 1 March we'll be looking at tenancy application forms to make sure they're compliant with the Privacy Act, we'll be looking at tenancy agreement forms to make sure they're compliant, and we'll also be looking at privacy policies and statements that landlords and property management companies have and we'll be looking at their websites.

"We'll be starting at the big end of town, but we'll also look at some smaller landlords as well."

Information protected by the Human Rights Act such as pregnancy, family status, pregnancy, ethnicity, political opinion, employment status, sexual orientation, gender identity, a tenant's spending habits, their social media url, or whether has experienced family violence could not be collected, MacPherson said.

She encouraged tenants with concerns or complaints to contact the Privacy Commission.

Comments

BUT the banks have been encouraged by legislation to ask the most intrusive, private questions of people to see if they can afford to pay their weekly mortgage. The process of applying for a mortgage has become painful and degrading. Why the double standard?? Why is the government enabling this awful behaviour in banks, yet penalising private landlords for doing similar (but less invasive and less drawn-out, painful) diligence to ensure the people who are staying for as long as they want can pay rent and are social - not antisocial - citizens?

Best outcome: Stop the banks from their anti-privacy, invasive mortgage processes. Then it is "fair" to people trying to get in to homes who want to live a life -- and be free to buy fish n chips on a Friday night, or nice food for their cat; and fairer to landlords, too - they'll see the privacy laws apply to conglomerates as well as private landlords.

Ridiculous and cruel situation.

The landlord activity, as described, is unlawful.

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter