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REINZ welcomes new guidelines from the Privacy Commission

The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) has today welcomed the new guidelines which have been released by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) as being much clearer and simpler for the industry to follow.

Bindi Norwell, Chief Executive at REINZ says: “When the guidelines were initially released there was a lack of consistency and limited industry consultation in the development of the guidelines. However, today’s guidelines are much clearer as they specify the type of information that should and should not be collected at various stages of the tenant selection process. We also welcome the collaborative approach the Commission has taken over the last few months.

“In the Commission’s view, collecting certain information becomes more justifiable as the process progresses and this is certainly something the industry agrees with,” continues Norwell.

One concern initially raised by the industry was around being able to ask whether the applicant was over 18, however, the new guidelines clearly state this is something potential tenants can be asked from the outset in order to ensure landlords and property managers are complying with the requirements under the Residential Tenancies Act.

“We’re delighted that the OPC has cleared up the issue around proof of age as this was a big concern to a number of our members when the guidelines initially came out, so we are really pleased the Commissioner has taken our feedback on board,” says Norwell.

“Another area which has been clarified is around credit checks. The new guidelines outline that credit checks should only be carried out on preferred applicants. While this might slow the process down slightly if the preferred candidates credit checks are not satisfactory, the industry concedes that it is prudent to check preferred candidates rather than all candidates,” continues Norwell.

“We also welcome clarity on issues such as income verification/employment, smoking, expenses, and will be working with our members to communicate these updated standards in a timely manner.

“We absolutely agree with the Commission’s list of questions that should not be asked at any stage of the tenancy application including nationality, ethnicity, physical/mental disability, gender, sexual orientation etc. These have no place in discussions about finding a tenant and could only be used to discriminate. We will also be reminding our members of their obligations under the Human Rights Act,” concludes Norwell.

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