Privacy Commissioner cracks down on compliance with new program protecting tenants' personal information

The new program is aimed at protecting tenants' personal information.
The new program is aimed at protecting tenants' personal information. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

The Privacy Commissioner is cracking down on the lack of compliance by property managers and agencies in a new program aimed at protecting tenants' personal information. 

The new compliance monitoring programme launched on Wednesday, will ensure that property managers and agencies are complying with New Zealand's Privacy Act.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner announced the new program will carry out 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.

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," Edwards says, who also announced a new tip line to report concerns about the handling of personal information. 

"There are now no excuses for over-collection and unauthorised use of personal information and there will be consequences for non-compliance."

The Privacy Commissioner has also 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," Edwards says. "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."

Auckland Property Investors' Association has welcomed the new monitoring programme and says it will provide much-needed certainty.

"Housing is an emotional issue for many Kiwis," APIA President Kristin Sutherland says. "This guidance offers the sector some much-needed certainty and goes a long way to help build trust between landlords and tenants."

The Association is particularly encouraged by its flexible and principle-based approach. 

"This is a far cry from the usual heavy-handedness landlords have come to expect from government agencies," says Sutherland.