• New privacy guidelines & Healthy Homes Statement of intent

    By tenancy.co.nz consultant Scotney Williams 

    It’s been a busy week for our industry with the Office of the Privacy Commission (OPC) releasing new guidelines for what information landlords and property managers can ask prospective tenants in tenancy applications.

    The guidelines are in response to a story last year that quoted a property manager saying at a Select Committee hearing that she routinely asks for bank statements when determining credit worthiness.

    We know a proportion of the property management industry do ask for bank statements but now the OPC is saying you will ‘never be justified’ in asking for this sort of detail from a tenant.  

    While this point is clear, we have received a lot of correspondence about the OPC guidelines since they were released, with many property managers commenting that they’re confusing.

    The guidelines state that, because it is illegal under the Human Rights Act for agencies to discriminate against potential tenants based on factors such as age, or employment, they should not be collecting some categories of information at all.

    The OPC guidelines are divided into three sections – “Always Justified”, “Sometimes Justified” and “Almost Never Justified”.

    In this article, we are highlighting three items for clarification.

    1. Age

    Under the OPC guideline, asking for someone’s age is something that landlords and property managers are ‘almost never justified’ in asking for, however it is ‘always justified’ to ask for someone’s proof of identity.

    What property managers are finding unclear is that if you ask for someone’s proof of identity, it will automatically reveal their age.

    It could be possible that the OPC is saying that you can’t ask for someone’s age, but you can ask for their date of birth.

    The reality is that you need to establish someone’s age to grant a tenancy. Section 14 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 states that a minor, under the age of 18, can apply for a tenancy if the applicant and landlord get ‘ratification’ from the Tenancy Tribunal.

    In these circumstances, you clearly need to know someone’s age.

    We are seeking clarification on this point.

    2. Driver’s licence number

    Also, under the OPC guidelines, landlords are almost ‘never justified’ in asking for a driver’s licence number, however they are ‘always justified’ in asking for someone’s proof of identity, which is usually a driver’s license.

    Again – we need clarification on this. 

     

     

    3. Credit Checking

    According to the guidelines, authorisation to collect a credit report is only ‘sometimes justified.’

    However, this is a standard practice in the industry and failing to run a credit check could be seen by the owner as negligence. 

    Property managers are required to complete due diligence when placing a tenant into a tenancy.

    Ultimately, property managers need to maintain high standards while complying with the Privacy Act and the Human Rights Act. 

    Our team is currently reviewing these guidelines and we will update the industry in due course.

    Healthy Homes Statement of intent

    Another pressing concern for the property management industry is the requirement to include a Healthy Homes Statement of intent by July 1, 2019.

    Rest assured, that we are actively working on including this within the eBundle agreement as soon as possible so all property managers are compliant.