A very long time ago I worked as a records management clerk for the federal government. This was back in the days before this thing called the Internet exploded onto the scene. Our office handled massive amounts of paper, files, and microfiche that were happily dropped off to our office by staff from other areas of the organization. As a result of being knee deep in records management at the start of my public service career, I learned quite a bit about Access to Information, privacy issues, as well as records handling, storage and disposal.
Nowadays, my records management skills are used to help safeguard the personal information that I collect from my clients, tenants, and from people who submit rental applications to me. As a landlord and Realtor, I have a legal obligation to handle private information in accordance with government laws including the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). The government’s website defines PIPEDA as “the federal privacy law for private-sector organizations. It sets out the ground rules for how businesses must handle personal information in the course of commercial activity.”
So, if you are a landlord, how well do you protect the private information that you collect? Do you have systems and procedures in place? Do you know what kind of information can be requested and collected from individuals? Would you be in compliance if your business was audited today? Well, I will go out on a limb and guess probably not. Many businesses and landlords are not fully PIPEDA compliant – not because they are into nefarious activities or want to purposely disclose private data, but simply because of the costs involved and the fact that records management is viewed as a lower priority compared to other tasks.
The government website has a tremendous amount of information about privacy laws and PIPEDA. The link to the website can be found at the end of this article. Before you jump over to that website, here are a couple of privacy tips for landlords to consider.
Can a landlord take pictures of my apartment and its contents?
I listed a home for sale last spring that was tenanted and as usual I booked a professional photographer to take pictures of it. When the photographer arrived at the home she was met by the tenant who insisted that his personal belongings not be photographed. His stuff included bags of clothes, a sofa, chairs, and items that are typically found in kitchens. I found the tenant’s request to be unreasonable however he was within his rights so the photographer limited her shots to a few rooms and the exterior of the home.
Here is why the tenant was within his rights – this is from the government website: “Taking photographs of an individual’s rental unit is a collection of personal information. The landlord must identify the purpose prior to, or at the time of, collection, and also obtain your consent. The landlord must also make a reasonable effort to ensure that you understand how the information will be used or disclosed.”
Limit the amount of information you collect
As landlords, we provide rental applications to people who want to live in our properties. Most applications ask the individual to answer a few valid questions and provide information related to previous landlords, vehicle license plate numbers, and employment status. We want as much information as possible because we believe that lots of information increases our chances of finding an excellent tenant. Landlords should be careful though. I have seen some questionable rental applications that asked for copies of the applicant’s bank statements, credit card numbers, and Twitter handle. The bottom line is that landlords are responsible for knowing what kind of information can be requested as well as what information is needed to assess a prospective tenant. If you do not know, you run the risk of someone filing a complaint with The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC).
To learn more about PIPEDA, visit the federal government’s website at https://www.priv.gc.ca.
Tony Miller is an award-winning investor and Investor Focused Realtor with EXIT Realty Matrix. Send him a message at firstname.lastname@example.org