Many Tenants, Landlords and even Property Managers fail to realize that there are many privacy issues arising from a Tenant and Landlord relationship. These vary from “over collecting” or the inappropriate use of personal information from applicants and Tenants alike. Furthermore, Tenant / Landlord information is deemed to be confidential and as such there is a degree of care required to properly protect that information. Identity theft is by far the most serious, but gossiping, sharing of information with those that do not have a need to know are important as well.
Shield, take privacy related issues very seriously and we’re often asked many questions. These are some of the more common questions asked by tenants or prospective tenants alike.
Q: Are there any privacy laws that govern Tenants’ personal information given to a Landlord or a Property Manager.
A: Yes! Landlords and Property Managers must comply with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). This is Canada’s federal private sector privacy law. Some provinces may also have more restrictive requirements, but PIPEDA has proven to be the one that sets out the ground rules for how businesses, including landlords and Property Managers, must handle personal information during business.
Outlined below are some of the obligations under the law:
- Expressed consent, not simply implied consent must be obtained from any individual’s when personal information is collected, used, or disclosed. This means that anyone gathering personal information must obtain consent in writing before or at the time of collecting it. (except in limited, defined circumstances set out in the law.)
- They must provide valid reasons for collecting personal information and ensure that these purposes are limited to what a reasonable person would consider appropriate under the circumstances.
- The collectors and keepers of personal information must provide you access to your personal information and allow you to challenge the accuracy of the information.
- A Tenant’s or Applicant’s personal information must only be used for the purposes for which it was collected and that those who collect the information are responsible for ensuring that the personal information is protected by appropriate safeguards. (Physical files containing personal information must be filed under lock and key when not being used. Electronic files must be equally protected and away from prying eyes).
- Many Landlords and Property Managers use credit bureau scoring and reports. Credit bureau’s are also governed by provincial and federal privacy laws and cannot and will not collect information without your consent. This means that you must provide consent to a Property Manager or a Landlord for them to legally obtain a credit report.
Q: What information is covered by PIPEDA?
A: Any personal information including any facts or subjective information, recorded or not, about an identifiable individual. This includes information in any form, such as:
- Date of birth
- Banking information and any other financial records
- Identification numbers
- Driver’s licence number
- Social Insurance Number
- Photographs and video recordings about an identifiable individual.
Q: How should Landlords and Property Managers be obtaining your consent?
A: Landlords should be getting your express consent to collect, use or disclosure even before going ahead with something like a credit check.
If your image is being captured on a security camera, it may be reasonable to state that your consent was “implied” if signs are posted providing you notice.
Regardless is consent is expressed or implied, Landlords and Property Managers must provide the following information:
- What personal information is being collected?
- Why it’s being collected.
- Will it be disclosed to third-parties and the risk of harm to you?
Q: What personal information MUST I have to give to a prospective Landlord or Property Manager?
A: Information is gathered to decide whether to rent to you. You may be asked for some personal information to allow for a credit check. A credit check can provide information about your ability to pay rent.
Some may also ask for your driver’s license, passport, employer, income, and expenses on an application. This information is not needed for a credit check but may ensure that you are not confused with someone with a similar name and date of birth.
Q: Does a landlord require my Social Insurance Number (SIN)?
A; No. Your Social Insurance Number is confidential. Under the law, organizations cannot make you give it to them for the purpose of renting and you cannot be denied a product or service on the grounds of your refusal to provide your SIN. Just because someone asks for your SIN, it doesn’t mean that you must provide it.
Q: What if a landlord asks for my Social Insurance number?
A: The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) generally recommends that individuals do not give your SIN for this purpose. If the landlord insists, you could suggest that they contact the OPC. You could also consider filing a complaint with the OPC.
Q: Can a landlord ask to see my driver’s licence? My tax information? My pay stubs? My bank statements?
A: Each represent a collection of personal information, and as such are subject to the law. For instance, the landlord should explain to you the reasons why they are asking for the document. The law requires that the purpose be one that a reasonable person would consider appropriate.
Landlords should not collect more information than they need for the stated purpose, and should not keep it for longer than necessary. For example, if they are asking to see your driver’s licence to confirm your identity, or pay stubs to confirm your income, they do not need to keep a copy of those sensitive documents once you have been accepted or declined for renting.
Q: Can a landlord look into my background by looking at what I post on social media or by calling another landlord?
A: Landlords should get consent for obtaining and providing reference and/or background checks any person or organization.
Informal checks such as looking at your Facebook page are common and acceptable. By posting your personal information on social media, consent is implied. However, Landlords and Property Managers should not use social media as a means of conducting background checks.
Q: Can a Landlord or Property Manager put my name on a “Bad Tenant” list?
A: No, they do not have the right to disclose or share personal information such as a poor payment history to an unregulated or ad hoc ‘Bad Tenants list.” However, poor payment history can be disclosed to credit agencies as they are regulated.
Q: Can a Landlord or Property Manager take pictures of my apartment and its contents?
A: Taking photographs of an individual’s rental unit is a collection of personal information. The purpose must be disclosed prior to, or at the time of, collection, and obtain your consent. Also make a reasonable effort must be made to ensure that you understand how the information will be used or disclosed.
Q: Can my landlord set up surveillance cameras in my building?
A: Yes, but with restrictions. To meet PIPEDA requirements, signs should be posted and policies distributed to the Tenants to explain, for example, how footage will be used and when it will be accessed. Also, cameras should not capture the inside of apartments. Monitors and any recorded images should be secured, and only accessed for specified purposes.
Q: How can I find out what information my Landlord or Property Manager has about me?
A: Under PIPEDA, you have a general right to access your own personal information held. You need to make the request in writing. You are supposed to be given access to your personal information within 30 calendar days.
© Shield Property Services (“Shield”)
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