More changes for landlords - under the Privacy Act
Owning a residential investment property is a common way to growing your wealth in New Zealand. However, over the last few years the obligations on landlords have increased significantly, with requirements to ensure that the homes are healthy and warm, and changes to the residential tenancies act, which give more power to the tenants.
Another change has been announced recently, from the Privacy Commissioner who has outlined what landlords can and cannot ask potential tenants when they are interviewing tenants. This will give more power to the tenants, but it is important that landlords are aware of these obligations.
There are a number of resources available on the Privacy Commissioners website, but key changes are in what a landlord should not ask or collect as outlined below. If you have not been in the market for renting a property recently, you might be surprised at the things that landlords might be asking potential tenants now.
What should landlords not collect?
When selecting tenants, a landlord should never ask for:
• personal characteristics protected under the Human Rights Act:
o sex (including pregnancy or childbirth)
o relationship or family status
o political opinion or religious or ethical belief
o colour, race, or ethnicity (including nationality or citizenship) o physical or mental disability or illness
o age (other than whether the tenant is over 18)
o employment status (being unemployed, on a benefit or on ACC)
o sexual orientation or gender identity
• whether the tenants have experienced or are experiencing family violence
• tenants’ spending habits (e.g. bank statements showing transactions)
• employment history
• social media URLs.
Once the tenancy starts, there may occasionally be reasons for you to collect information about these matters. For example, you might ask about disability if it’s relevant to how you manage the tenancy or communicate with the tenant.
In exceptional circumstances, it could be okay to collect information about how tenants spend their money – for example, if a tenant wants to negotiate a rent reduction or repayment period.
These guidelines have been developed in relation to the Human Rights Act and more detail can be found in the document below and at https://www.privacy.org.nz/your-rights/renting.