Vetting Tenants and Privacy

March 2022

Vetting Tenants and Privacy  |   Reading Time: 4 Minutes   

What Questions Can You Ask Prospective Tenants?

Privacy is a hot topic and landlords must be mindful of respecting a potential tenant’s privacy when vetting them for a tenancy. In November 2021 the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) launched a new monitoring and compliance programme to ensure that rental agencies and landlords are complying with the Privacy Act.

When vetting for potential tenants always ask yourself whether you need the information for a lawful purpose and only ask what is absolutely necessary. In this article we look at what you can and cannot ask potential tenants.

How Does the OPC Monitoring and Compliance Programme Operate?

Through the compliance monitoring programme, OPC will carry out regular checks of rental agencies. The OPC will also conduct an annual survey to audit the application forms, contract forms and privacy policies of letting agencies, property managers, and other service providers.

The aim of the new programme is to ensure tenants and prospective tenants have confidence in the way their personal information is collected, used, stored, and disclosed by their landlord or property manager.

What Can I Ask at the Viewing?

When arranging a property viewing you need only ask for a potential client’s name and contact information. This information is collected for the sole purpose of following up with the prospective tenant following the viewing.

What Information Can I Collect When Someone is Applying for a Tenancy?

At this stage you can collect some further information. You can ask for:

  • Name and contact information
  • Personal identification
  • Whether the applicant is over 18
  • How many people intend to live at the property
  • Names of flatmates or dependents that will not be on the tenancy agreement. You cannot ask for other personal details of non-tenants.
  • Contact details for referees and consent to contact referees
  • Whether any pets will live in the property
  • Whether the applicant or any occupants smoke

Read Crockers’ article on Setting the rent, considering pets and finding the right tenants.

When you are negotiating an offer of tenancy you can also ask for:

  • Consent for criminal record and credit checks

If the tenancy is for a fixed term you can also ask:

  • The tenant’s New Zealand residency status for the duration of the tenancy

Choosing Your Preferred Tenant

You may want to collect some additional information when making your final selections on tenant suitability. At this stage you can ask for:

  • Additional information required to carry out credit/criminal record checks, such as date of birth and copies of identification documents.
  • Additional evidence of an applicant’s ability to pay the rent. You may ask for one additional form of proof other than the credit report, for example a pay slip or a letter from the applicant’s employer or Work and Income. You cannot ask about personal spending habits.

What Can’t I Ask Potential Applicants?

There are many things you shouldn’t ask potential tenants. Remember the golden rule: only ask for information you need for a lawful purpose and only ask what you need to. Some examples of questions you can’t ask include the following:

  • Personal characteristics protected under the Human Rights Act, such as:
  • relationship or family status
  • whether a tenant is pregnant or has children
  • political, religious and ethical beliefs
  • race, nationality or citizenship
  • physical or mental disabilities or illnesses
  • age (other than whether they are over 18)
  • employment status
  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity
  • any history of family violence
  • spending habits
  • employment history
  • social media information

Can I Ask For Additional Information When Preparing a Tenancy Agreement?

Yes, at this stage you can ask for a little more detail, such as: vehicle information if you require this for parking on the property; an address where you can send correspondence to the tenant; emergency contacts; and Work and Income client details if you require these to collect rent.

What Information May Be Collected During a Tenancy?

During a tenancy it may become necessary to collect additional information, such as taking photos during house inspections. It’s important that these photos are only taken to reflect how a tenant is looking after a property and personal items should not be photographed where possible.

Can I Be Reported for Privacy Breaches?

The answer to this is a definite yes. A Rental Tipline has recently been set up for tenants to report any privacy issues encountered in the rental sector to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. Reports are confidential. Potential/current tenants may wish to report landlords asking for too much information, not giving them access to their own information, or sharing personal information unexpectedly.

How Crockers Can Help

The Crockers Property Management team are experts at vetting for tenancies and always keep prospective tenants’ privacy front of mind. For help finding the right tenants for your property, contact Crockers’ expert Property Management on pm@crockers.co.nz or call for a chat on 09 623 5952

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