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Privacy Commissioner Releases Revised Tenancy Privacy Guidelines

By Donna Jones

Following the issuing of new tenancy privacy guidelines in May, then their retraction in June, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) has consulted with the real estate industry and issued revised tenancy privacy guidelines.

Why were the privacy guidelines retracted in June?

Back in July we covered the OPC’s retracting of their first attempt at issuing new tenancy privacy guidelines, following harsh feedback from the real estate industry. The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) pointed out contradictions in the guidelines, including the fact that asking would-be tenants for their age was deemed unjustified when the Tenancies Act in fact stipulates that landlords need to make sure tenants are over 18.

Several of these issues put the guidelines at odds with rental industry general practices and saw the OPC withdraw the guidelines and meet with REINZ for further consultation.

What information can landlords ask tenants for according to the new guidelines?

In August, following their consultation with REINZ, OPC released a guidance information fact sheet that landlords, property managers and tenants can use to determine what personal information renters can and can’t be asked for. The fact sheet is broken down into what information can be asked for when the prospective tenant is applying for a tenancy, what information can be collected once the preferred applicant/s have been chosen, and what information should never be asked for.

The current guidance information fact sheet released by Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

Advocacy groups raise concerns about new guidelines

While REINZ was pleased with the changes the OPC made to the guidelines following consultation between the two parties, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) are yet to be convinced of the efficacy they will have in the real world.

Audrey Fell-Smith, the manager of the CAB Wellington Central branch expressed concerns around how enforceable the guidelines are and whether they will in fact change the behavior of landlords and property managers in the wild. Fell-Smith fears renters will be left vulnerable because they may miss out on tenancies where others provide additional information that they aren’t legally obliged to.

What to do if you’re unsure about the privacy guidelines for renters

We encourage prospective tenants who are in doubt about what information they should give landlords and property managers to refer to the OPC guidelines below, or get in touch with us for an informal chat.

We suggest landlords also refer to the resources below and contact us for more information about the processes our property managers follow.

Office of the Privacy Commissioner guidelines:

Guidance information factsheet.

Full privacy act guidance for landlords, property managers and tenants.

Image:

Wat is Privacy graffiti, door, Shoreditch, Hackney, London, UK’ by Cory Doctorow via CC BY-SA 2.0.

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