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NZPIF Response To The Privacy Commissioner

The New Zealand Property Investors’ Federation (NZPIF) agrees with the Privacy Commissioner that the collection, retention, and disclosure of personal information on tenants must be open and fair,” says Sharon Cullwick, NZPIF Executive Officer.

Due to the short supply of rental homes, tenants are being asked for more information than is required by a landlord for them to be assessed for a rental property. Some information is vital for a landlord to be able to make an assessment, such as name, proof of identification, number of occupants, and pets. A landlord may require to a credit check but will need to obtain permission to obtain this, and will want to establish that a tenant has the ability to pay the rent without extreme hardship. However, there is no need to find out intricate details regarding how a tenant spends their money, their marital status, religion, nationality or anything else that would not help in the establishment of whether or not a potential tenant will be suitable.

Bad tenant or tenant ‘Black lists’ are not a fair or transparent way to find out details of a tenant. These lists are one sided and may be more to do with the relationship between the rental home provider and the tenant rather than with the tenant themselves. These lists can unfairly keep a tenant out of the market because of inaccuracies.

Phase 2 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2020, which comes into effect on the 11th February, will remove the ability of a landlord to terminate a tenancy by a no-cause 90-day notice. Therefore it is now even more important to select tenants carefully and landlords will need to do extra checks. However, a tenant can always decline to give any private information or to answer any intrusive questions.

While this RTA change is aimed at improving security of tenure for all tenants, it actually only protects the tenure of the 2% of tenants that prove to be particularly difficult. The unintended consequence is that it will also affect the marginal tenants to whom landlords may have given an opportunity but will hesitate to do so from now on. Some of our members have said they will leave a property empty rather than take a risk on a dubious tenant. This will increase the vacancy rate which in turn reduces the availability of rental properties at a time when we require more.

“As the NZPIF is keen to see fairness for both landlords and tenants, the organisation looks forward to engaging with the Privacy Commissioner,” says Cullwick.

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