Landlord Data Protection – As a landlord doing my own lettings I’m conscious of the fact that I handle and keep some pretty sensitive information about my tenants. How do I stand legally regarding the Data Protection legislation?
It is true that as a landlord doing your own lettings, if you are seeking sufficient information to verify and select your tenants, by means of a detailed tenancy application form and identity checks, you will be collecting some sensitive information. Crucially, you may also store this electronically if you use landlord software or do credit checks on-line.
This does not necessarily mean that you should be registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), paying an annual registration fee as a Data Controller. This would be the case for letting agents or a large professional landlord. However, a Domestic Exemption applies for say taking a lodger, a holiday let or the casual non-professional landlord home owner. But many serious buy-to-let landlords, according to ICO advice, may need to register. Check with them.
Even if you don’t need to register, as a landlord you cannot ignore the main principles of the Data Protection Act. Landlords are obliged to process personal data fairly and lawfully.
In practice, it means that you must: (1) have legitimate reasons for collecting and using the personal data, (2) explain why you need the data and how it will be used. (3) have the tenant’s written consent for legitimately disclosing to third parties, for credit checks and referencing etc, (4) handle people’s personal data only in ways they would reasonably expect taking all reasonable precautions to make sure the data is kept secure, and (5) don’t keep the data on file longer than is reasonably necessary and dispose of it securely. For more information see: http://www.ico.gov.uk
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