The Privacy Act 2020

Huge changes are here – so what can we ask tenants when they apply for a rental property?

The office of the Privacy Commissioner has prioritised work on the collection, retention, and disclosure of personal information in the rental accommodation sector. Alongside the guidance, they are also launching a new compliance monitoring programme to ensure that property managers and agencies are acting in accordance with the Privacy Act.

As part of the compliance monitoring programme they will be initiating a review of key rental documents such as application forms, contract forms, and privacy statements of letting agencies, property managers, and third party service providers, to ensure that they protect the privacy of tenants and applicants. Their expectation is that by then our policies and practices fulfil our Privacy Act obligations.

So what does this all actually mean?

Essentially we are being asked to stop requesting information that is not relevant to a potential tenant’s suitability to a property. There must be relevance to each piece of information we request. Moving forward the letting process will be divided into three sections (in terms of data collection);

Property viewings. We can collate name and contact information only at this point – this information is for the purpose of following up. Tenants may pre-apply if they wish but we cannot ask it of them.

Initial application. We can ask for a lot more information here – this is to decide on a ‘top pick’ that we think would be most suitable. This part of the application will ask for:

  • 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 (but only if the tenancy is for a fixed term).

The final stage.

Once we have selected our top pick we can then get the following information:

  • Any additional information needed to carry out credit or criminal record checks (e.g. date of birth or copies of ID documents) which we can then carry out.
  • 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 cannot ask for evidence of tenants’ spending habits, such as detailed bank statements.

And what does this really change for a landlord?

The main point of difference here is not knowing what the potential tenants do for work (however we have noticed this information is still often volunteered or a work contact used as a reference) but evidence of ability to pay rent is still a part of the application.

Essentially it does not change much for landlords on a day to do day level – we must be educated on the process but can still gather almost all the same information as before but just with the formalised stages of how and from who!

The team at Wendells are already training on the above and we will be certified by the end of the month.

Don’t worry – we’ve got this.

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