Data Protection Act Laws Affecting Landlords

by Mark Alexander

23:37 PM, 6th February 2012
About 7 years ago

Data Protection Act Laws Affecting Landlords

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Data Protection Act Laws Affecting Landlords

Do you think Landlords need to have a Data Protection Licence?

My opinion of this is that the rules are very clear. Any person carrying on business who holds personal and/or financial data about other people should be licensed and take proper care to protect any data they hold, whether that’s computer or paper records.

To quote the Information Commissioners office “If you handle personal information about individuals, you have a number of legal obligations to protect that information under the Data Protection Act 1998.”

Landlords hold all sorts of data which qualifies for Data protection including tenant applications, tenancy agreements, references, National Insurance numbers, copy payslips, copy passports and driving licences, etc. etc. etc.

As tenants become more and more legally savvy you can bet that some will be looking for every opportunity to push you into any hole that you dig for yourself. This also extends to sharing information. For example, if you share information about a tenant with a referencing company you had better be sure that you have made provisions in your tenancy agreement and/or your tenant application forms for the tenant to grant you permission to do this. The time to get this permission is before you hand over they keys, once you have done so you’ve lost your power.

It is very easy for people to check whether you have a Data Protection Act Licence, they just do a search here

If you are in any doubt as to what I am saying please leave a comment and also check this link.



Comments

13:37 PM, 7th February 2012
About 7 years ago

Thanks Mark, a very useful post,

I have always believed that the basic rule with Data Production is:
"Tell people what you will do with their data before you get the data,
and then look after their data as if it was your data."

Personally I don’t think the Information Commissioners will care if a landlord with a handful of properties has a Data Protection Licence.   However I totally agree that you need to take good care of personally data and make it very clear at the START how you will be sharing information with other people/companies.

In a lot of cases permission to share information will be assumed, e.g. if  you get a possible tenant to fill in a 3rd party reference check form,  then it is clear the information is going to that 3rd party.   Telling a “network” referencing setup about a problem with a tenant is a very different matter and also opens up all sorts of problems with libel laws etc!

So if I was to rent directly (without using an agent) I would be looking for a RGI policy that included the reference checks and hopefully informing the “network” referencing setup if there is a problem.   Then the data protection issues will mostly not be my problem.

I would however still like some working that let me inform other landlords directly or indirectly about any problems I have had.   Does anyone have a good set of wording?  (It needs to cover new network referencing type systems not just current ones)

(Yes, if you are on the scale of Mark, then you had better have a full registration and trick every box, as you will be seen as a target and no one will feel sorry for you – but at the other end of the spectrum acting “reasonably” and informing everyone in writing how you may use information is likely to be enough to keep you out of problems.)

8:22 AM, 9th February 2012
About 7 years ago

As Ian says, I can't see ICO being overly concerned with landlords failing to notify them. According to a September 2010 ICO press release, most estate and letting agents haven't notified them either! http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/pressreleases/2010/estate_agents_notify_08092010.pdf 

David

mike wilson

9:32 AM, 9th February 2012
About 7 years ago

Mark, have you ever call the info com office? I did several years ago. There is no need to register.

Mark Alexander

9:58 AM, 9th February 2012
About 7 years ago

Hi Mike

I needed a DPA licence for other business purposes but at the time I was advised to include my lettings business. Who are info com? I dealt with the ICO (Information Commisioners Office) as they are the body responsible for Data Protection, perhaps you should check with them. Feel free to report back here. I strongly recommend you to ask them to confirm their advice in writing.

Rob Crawford

18:13 PM, 25th October 2014
About 4 years ago

I thought I would resurrect the subject of whether Landlords should be registered with ICO. I contacted ICO about six years ago and explained that I self managed my properties and conducted all my own reference and credit checks etc. ICO's answer was clear. I was collecting, storing a using tenant data and as such I should be registered. I therefore registered. I am now a Letting Agent and registered with ICO in that capacity. I am often contracted by landlord clients to conduct reference, credit and affordability checks all of which I am happy to do. I am also happy (with the relevant permissions from the tenant) to provide the landlord with access to this information so that informed decisions maybe made by them with regard to the suitability of candidate tenants. However, I am concerned with the expectations of some landlords who expect me to hand over this data despite the fact that I know they are not registered with ICO and where they have intentions to store/process and share the data themselves. If I hand over this data with this knowledge, even with the tenant's authorisation, am I not implicated if something happens to the data that later causes hurt to the tenant? I believe the tenant in most cases will assume their data is being managed correctly and iaw DPA requirements. So to simply hand tenant data over to the un-registered landlord I feel is not as straight forward as some imply. Even if the Agent is employed by the Landlord. Landlords/Agents your views please..

Romain Garcin

18:46 PM, 25th October 2014
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Rob Crawford" at "25/10/2014 - 18:13":

" I am also happy (with the relevant permissions from the tenant) to provide the landlord with access to this information so that informed decisions maybe made by them with regard to the suitability of candidate tenants."

Food for thought:

Since you are carrying out this work on behalf of your principal (the landlord), what ground to do you have withhold any of the information collected? As far as I understand, you carry out this work on their behalf, the default position is therefore that anything you collect belong to them (law of agency and all that).

If you do withhold information (subject to your T&Cs making that clear) then, as you say, they are not in a position to make an informed decision. Does that mean that, in fine, you are the one making the decision? If so are you happy to have a degree of liability should the tenant you pick turns out to be 'bad'?

That said, best practice is indeed to _inform_ (not ask permission) the prospective tenant on the referencing form that all the information collected will be passed on to the landlord.

At the end the options to be completely above board might be either to refuse to accept such work from non-registered landlords or to accept a risk if making the decision to let yourself.


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