(File)

UPDATED: B.C. landlords collect too much personal information, watchdog says

Report suggests low vacancy rates lead landlords to believe they can collect whatever info they want

Landlords in B.C. are generally collecting too much personal information from potential tenants, the province’s acting privacy watchdog says, and in many cases are violating privacy laws.

In a report published Thursday, acting privacy commissioner Drew McArthur examined the personal details collected by 13 landlords during the tenancy application process, and compared it to what is authorized by the Personal Information Protection Act.

“Low vacancy rates may prompt landlords to believe they can collect whatever information they want from prospective tenants,” said McArthur in a news release. “In some cases, landlords required applicants to provide months’ worth of detailed bank statements, or for consent to conduct a credit check, or for information protected by the Human Rights Code, such as marital status.”

His report includes examples of things landlords had requested that he found to be “invasive” and “concerning,” such as a copy of their child’s report cards, their T4 slips, and their social insurance number.

Landlords had asked would-be tenants how long they’d been a customer at their bank, were they born in Canada, and would they consent to an inspection of their current home before their application would be approved?

READ MORE: B.C. welcomes Ottawa’s help on rental housing construction

The report makes recommendations such as never collecting information from social media or internet search engines; limiting the amount of required personal information on application forms; and requiring a credit check only when a potential tenant can’t provide proper references about past tenancies, employment or income.

“Rentals make up 30% of housing in B.C.,” McArthur said. “Unfortunately, many applicants feel they have no choice but to provide this information to avoid missing out on a place to live.”

LandlordBC CEO David Hutniak said he agrees with the recommendations for the most part, saying landlords must understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to their own privacy and that of their tenants.

But he said he struggles with not being able to check out someone’s publicly available social media profiles.

“For those to be taken out of the equation in 2018, we think that definitely needs to be re-considered,” Hutniak said. “It’s primarily out of concern for the smaller landlords.”

READ MORE: B.C. to give renters a break on deposits, rent increases

Roughly 60 to 70 per cent of rental housing in Vancouver is secondary market, he said, such as condos and secondary suites. These landlords may lack the experience of someone who manages a 100-tenant building to spot potentially problem renters, and need to be able to use tools such as social media and credit checks.

In a telephone interview with Black Press Media, McArthur said his office has always told employers they cannot use publicly available social media to screen potential employees.

“While may be available to the public, it’s not described as public in our legislation,” he said, adding any details gleaned from someone’s Facebook or Instagram account must relate to their prospective tenancy.

“Landlords can refer to references. You can go and check references and do that diligently.”

Hutniak said his organization, which has about 3,300 members, plans to reach out to the privacy commissioner and Housing Minister Selina Robinson to discuss the report.

Referring to the current housing affordability crisis, he said: “The last thing we need are any sort of measures that are going to sway people not to rent out their homes.”

In an email, Robinson said it’s disturbing to see some landlords are taking advantage of low vacancy rates and violating personal privacy.

“We will review educational resources made available to landlords to ensure they align with the recommendations in this report.”

McArthur’s office also published guidance documents to help landlords figure out what personal information they can collect and what they cannot.



laura.baziuk@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Move natural gas pipeline, MP suggests

Coastal GasLink could then avoid opposition

B.C. minister says rural internet is ‘railroad of the 21st century’

Jinny Sims talks details about the $50-million provincial and possible $750-million federal funds

Zero-interest student loans a huge relief: CMTN student union

Parliamentary secretary hears from Terrace students, alumni and staff

Tl’azt’en man emerges strong from leukemia struggle

“You have to find that inner you and fight back,” Darren says

WANTED: Five sought by RCMP

Police asking for public’s assistance finding five people on outstanding warrants.

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

Dutch police question new suspect in deadly tram shooting

Police are looking for additional suspects in the shooting

Starbucks to test recyclable cups, redesign stores in B.C., U.S. cities

The company also said it plans to redesign its stores as it adapts to increasing mobile pick-up and delivery orders

In pre-election budget, Liberals boost infrastructure cash to cities, broadband

The budget document says the Liberals have approved more than 33,000 projects, worth about $19.9 billion in federal financing

‘That’s a load of crap’: Dog poop conspiracy spreads in White Rock

Allegation picked up steam through a Facebook page run by a city councillor

Facebook to overhaul ad targeting to prevent discrimination

The company is also paying about $5 million to cover plaintiffs’ legal fees and other costs

B.C. mosque part of open-house effort launched in wake of New Zealand shootings

The ‘Visit a Mosque’ campaign aims to combat Islamophobia

Explosives unit brought in after suspicious boxes left at B.C. RCMP detachment

Nanaimo RCMP issues all clear after packages were found on lawn earlier in the day

Newfoundland man caught after posting photo of himself drinking and driving

The 19-year-old took a photo of himself holding a beer bottle and cigarette while at the wheel

Most Read