The Deputy Privacy Commissioner has announced that from 1 March 2022, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner will be looking at tenancy application forms and tenancy agreement forms to make sure they are compliant with our privacy laws. They will also be looking at privacy policies and statements of landlords and property management companies, including on their websites.

These tighter measures come as a result of tenant advocacy groups voicing concern over landlords asking tenants to provide private and protected information such as their ethnicity, religion, political affiliations, sexual orientation and whether a potential tenant plans on having children. This sort of private information is beyond what a landlord would reasonably need in the context of a tenancy agreement. 

Other personal information that landlords should not be collecting from tenants for privacy reasons includes whether there is any history of family violence, the spending habits of the potential tenant (e.g. recent bank statements), and even social media account details so that they can investigate their online presence.

There has also been concern over Facebook groups listing “bad tenants” and holding adverse information about tenants without their knowledge, to be shared amongst landlords and property managers as a sort of public black list.

Individuals always have a right to access the information any agency holds about them, and to request its correction if necessary.

The Deputy Privacy Commissioner has said that if privacy compliance issues are found with landlords and property management companies, they will first be sending a draft compliance notice on which the landlord/company can provide comment.

Failure to address the issues will lead to the issuing of a formal compliance notice. If no action to comply with privacy obligations is taken, the Privacy Commissioner will prosecute - which carries the risk of a $10,000 fine, also the risk of significant reputational damage.

Landlords and property management companies should make sure that they have robust privacy practices and policies in place to ensure compliance with the Privacy Act.  If you are a landlord or property manager and have concerns about your privacy obligations, you should speak with a privacy expert to understand your obligations.

If you are a tenant and believe that your landlord or property manager has breached their obligations to you under the Privacy Act, then you are able to make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner.  You should also considering speaking with a privacy expert to understand your rights.


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