Data Protection issues for Private Landlords

DATA PROTECTION ISSUES FOR PRIVATE LANDLORDS

This article looks at data protection issues for private landlords.

Us landlords hold a lot of data – at the very least, tenant information such as names and addresses, financial data, and payment history.

It must be looked after carefully.

In most cases landlords need to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the only exception being if you use a letting agent and you don’t hold any details at all about your tenants, such as financial, employment or personal information. But we would not advise anyone to be this “hands off” – no matter how good the agent is.

It does not matter if you only have one tenancy – that is enough, you still need to register with the ICO.

You should only retain people’s data for as long as you need it.  So, if you referenced-checked someone and they did not end up as a tenant, you cannot keep their data as you will normally now unable contact them – your business connection has ended. In these situations, they should be removed from your database.

The only exception to this where you could retain tenants’ data is if they agreed to go on a mailing list for you to say let them know if any properties of the type they are interested in, become available.

And you obviously must keep their data if you form a contract between you – which of course is what happens if they become a tenant of yours.

In this case, you need to retain their data until at least seven years after the end of the tenancy. This is in case of legal action by them for any reason connected with their tenancy. (A claim could be made in court up to six years after the end of a tenancy).

You also need to keep all current and past tenants information for seven years in case it is required by HMRC, who may need to see it is they are doing a tax investigation into your affairs. It is possible too that a local authority may also want to see it for the purpose of enforcing housing law.

DATA PROTECTION FOR PRIVATE LANDLORDS

Obviously, the information you keep should not be shared with anyone. You may be tempted to post on social media that your awful tenant has not paid rent, but that would be an illegal use.

Letting agents must provide landlords with tenant referencing material which they have obtained for the purpose of checking a tenant on your behalf – as it belongs to the you and the agent is acting as an agent for you. And if the agent does not understand this most basic principle of business, you should not use them at all! If the agent has forgotten to inform the tenant of that they must share data with the landlord, then this is the agent’s problem. 

Data kept online should be protected by secure passwords and be held on a secure server in case you were to lose your laptop, for example.

Under data protection rules, the data subjects (i.e. your tenants) have the following rights:

INFORMATION ABOUT HOW DATA IS HELD: It is best to do this using a comprehensive privacy notice on your website, and/ or include it in your tenancy agreement or give it to a tenant as a separate document. See below for more.

ACCESS: You must show a tenant the details of their data that you hold, and you cannot charge a fee for doing so. You must correct it if it is wrong.

You can process data:

To perform your duties under a contract – this covers the normal landlord – tenant situation.

If you are required to do so under law – this covers carrying out money laundering checks.

If you have a legitimate interest – this covers protecting your landlord commercial interests, for example, processing data to carry out repairs to a tenanted property.

If you have the person’s specific consent – this covers where you are doing reference and affordability and credit checks.

Remember, you may just hold all the information on your own computer. 

You must use the data in the right way and as agreed. For example, if a tenant gives you her email address in connection with her application for a tenancy that does not necessarily mean that she gave her permission for you to send marketing mailings.

DATA PROTECTION ACT FOR PRIVATE LANDLORDS – CONSENT

There is no need to be too obsessive about obtaining consent for non-marketing purposes though. The key thing is if you are using the data to perform a contract, to comply with your legal obligations and/or because you have a legitimate interest, consent is not needed. All you need do is notify people about how you are using their data.

If you have a website, you need to have a privacy page which sets out in detail what you do with people’s data and inform people what they can do if they want to unsubscribe from your mailings or get their data deleted (if appropriate).

If you don’t have a website, you need a privacy notice handout which you can give to tenants or prospective tenants. 

You need to appoint a Data Protection Officer. This may well be you, of course. Their job is to monitor compliance, ensure that your employees are informed of their duties in respect of data use, and to be the first point of contact for members of the public and the authorities contacting you about data protection issues. The Data Protection Officer will be responsible for compliance within your organisation.

You need to give tenants information about the data you hold, why and where you are holding it and what their rights are.

This is best done by providing them with a Data Protection Notice. This is the one we use, which we have embedded in all tenancy agreements and as soon as we start processing any application.

Data Protection Notice

We require to process and retain certain personal information that you have provided to us. From time to time we may pass any or all that personal information on to third parties who may carry out specific work on our behalf for processing – for example a plumber of heating engineer in order that they may contact you to arrange maintenance of the property or a credit agency to assess your application to rent from us.

If we require your consent to process and retain any of your personal information, we shall seek your written permission to do so separately.

In terms of General Data Protection Regulations you are entitled to request and inspect personal information of yours that we hold. Should you wish to inspect any of your personal information that we hold, you have the right to request sight of this data, provided it is done in writing, and it details the specific information you are seeking. We will provide you with a copy of any personal information held (which constitutes “Personal Data” in terms of GDPR) within one month of receipt of a written request from you.  Our Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) registration certificate is XXXXX.

Third Party

Under this tenancy agreement, in the event that rent is unpaid or damages owing, information on you may be passed to a third-party including tracing agents or debt recovery agents to recover a debt. Information in connection with how this tenancy was managed may be passed to third parties to help them decide whether to grant another tenancy.

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