You Can’t Ask That! What The New Privacy Laws Mean For Landlords

by Claire Wilson on Mon Dec 2021
You Can’t Ask That! What The New Privacy Laws Mean For Landlords

From November 2021, landlords must adhere to stricter privacy laws when interviewing prospective tenants...

A new compliance monitoring program announced by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner which launched in November, will ensure that property managers and agencies comply with New Zealand's Privacy Act.

The new program aims to protect tenants’ personal information through regular checks of rental sector agencies, as well as conducting an annual survey to audit issues ranging from application and contract forms, privacy policies of letting agencies, to third-party service providers.

An anonymous tip line has also been established to enable tenants or prospective tenants to report concerns about the handling of their personal information should they feel a breach to their privacy has taken place.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards  says tenants and prospective tenants need to have confidence in the way their personal information has been collected, used, stored, and disclosed by their landlord or property manager.

“As we move into this compliance phase, rental sector agencies must be aware of their obligations and responsibilities. There are now no excuses for over-collection and unauthorised use of personal information and there will be consequences for non-compliance,” he says.

Alongside the new compliance monitoring program, The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has launched new guidance for tenants, landlords, and others in the rental accommodation sector.

“We have developed this guidance to clarify the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords under the Privacy Act. The guidance spells out what information may be requested at every stage of the rental process. We want to make it easy for landlords and property managers to know what they should and shouldn’t collect, and for prospective tenants to understand what they can and can’t be asked for,” says Edwards.

What you CAN ask tenants 

There are different things you can ask a potential tenant throughout the rental application process and during the tenancy. It is important to ensure you are familiar with what you can and can’t ask. The test is always: do you need the information for a lawful purpose connected to finding tenants and managing tenancies? Only ask for what you need. 

When people are applying for a tenancy you can ask; 

  • Name and contact information
  • Proof of identity
  • Whether the applicant is aged 18 years or older
  • Number of people who would live at the property
  • Names only of occupants who will not be on the tenancy agreement (e.g. flatmates, dependents), but not other personal details about non-tenants
  • Contact details for landlord and non-landlord references
  • Consent to contact referees (you can contact referees at this stage)
  • Consent for a credit report and criminal record check (to be obtained only if you are in negotiation with a tenant about an offer of tenancy)
  • Pet ownership (if there are restrictions on the pets allowed at the property)
  • Whether any occupants are smokers (if there are restrictions on smoking at the property)
  • Whether the tenant has a legal right to remain in New Zealand for the duration of a tenancy (only if the tenancy is for a fixed term)

When checking preferred applicants;

  • Any additional information needed to carry out credit or criminal record checks (e.g. date of birth or copies of ID documents)
  • Evidence of ability to pay rent – in addition to a credit report, you can ask for one other form of evidence (e.g. pay slip, letter from employer or Work and Income, evidence of rental payments in previous tenancy).
  • You can’t ask for evidence of tenants’ spending habits, such as detailed bank statements.

What you CAN’T ask tenants

When selecting tenants a landlord should never ask;

  • 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

For comprehensive resources for both landlords on what they can and can’t ask and a checklist for tenants on what information they do and do not need to disclose if they are asked visit The Privacy Commission.

To ensure you’re always on the right side of the law when engaging with tenants, why not consider a professional property manager to manage your rental property? A1 Property Managers are REINZ accredited and our team undergo regular training to ensure we are current, not only on best practice when it comes to rental property tenancies, but the law. Get in touch today – we’d love to help.

Claire Wilson

Claire Wilson

An active investor with her husband Hamish, Claire loves to inspire & inform others, all whilst juggling three little boys and living her mantra to eat well and travel lots.