Harcourts has included articles in previous editions of the Property Management Focus newsletters about the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) cracking down on compliance in the rental sector.
The Real Estate Institute of NZ (REINZ) recently held additional Privacy Act training, with many Harcourts business owners and managers attending the training to ensure compliance in their offices.
There are some simple measures that Harcourts offices have taken with regards to the collection and use of tenants and prospective tenant’s data that we want to share with our clients.
The 13 Information Privacy Principles (in plain English):
1. Only collect the information you need
2. Get the information directly from the person concerned
3. Tell them what you’re going to be doing with the information collected
4. Be ethical when collecting the information
5. Store the information securely once you’ve got it
6. They can see their information if they want to
7. They can correct their information if it is wrong
8. You must make sure it’s accurate before you use it
9. Don’t keep it longer than needed
10. Only use it for the purpose you got it for
11. Only disclose it if that’s the reason why you got it
12. Take care when sending information overseas
13. Be careful with unique identifiers to protect individuals
The first four principles govern how we collect information, which in the property management industry is often tenants’ information for the purpose of granting a tenancy. Principles five, six and seven govern how we store information and allow the individual access to their personal information. The remaining principles govern how we use, share, and dispose of personal information.
So, let’s take a look at what property managers and landlords should be aware of and how we can abide by the Privacy Principles in a practical sense.
Tenancy Application Process
Harcourts Property Managers use a secure online tenancy application process that only asks for certain information during a phased application process. What this means is that a prospective tenant is only asked for additional personal information to confirm they are suitable tenants once they have been selected as a preferred applicant.
This way, property managers are receiving personal information from fewer applicants rather than receiving lots of information about everyone interested in the property, regardless of their suitability.
Our tenancy application process does not ask for information that is inappropriate or irrelevant for granting a tenancy, however, does allow prospective tenants to provide references and put their best foot forward in the application process.
Everyone in a shared tenancy is required to complete and submit their own application form with a login that is unique to them. Identification such as a copy of a passport or drivers’ licence is only required from preferred applicants and is only used to verify the identity of the person, which is the reason it was required, and then deleted.
Identification documents should not be shared with landlords once it has been used to verify the identity of the individual and should not in any circumstances be printed.
No Print Policy
Harcourts property management offices have adopted a ‘No Print Policy’ for tenancy applications, and these are stored in a secure online system. If there are circumstances where a landlord is provided with the tenant’s information (usually with the tenant’s consent), the landlord is directed to follow the same ‘No Print Policy’ to ensure that the tenant’s personal information is protected.
Emails, Conversations & What Else?
Our diligent property managers record conversations in their software, saving emails, retaining text messages, and all other correspondence about a tenancy. Principle 6 of the Privacy Principles states that people have a right to ask for access to their own personal information. What that means in practice is that a tenant can request copies of all correspondence with their name or where they have been referenced.
If a tenant makes a request for their personal information, the agency will often have just 20 working days to respond, and the information provided would include correspondence between a landlord and a property manager, or any other party when the tenant is mentioned, unless you have received instructions that the conversation was to be kept confidential (i.e. a reference check).
Routine Inspections & Photographs
Property managers are encouraged to take photographs during routine inspections; however, these photographs should only be of specific areas of concern, or of maintenance required. It is unlikely that a photograph of the entire room or area would be necessary.
For example, a property manager may take a photograph of a broken door handle in a bedroom so the landlord can identify the extent to which it requires repair, and the tradesperson can use the photo to prepare prior to going on site. It wouldn’t be reasonable however to take a photograph of the entire bedroom, when only a photo of the broken door handle is necessary.
A photograph of the living room that includes the tenants’ personal belongings, with a comment that the tenant is taking care of the property is likely to breach the tenant’s privacy. The comment from the property manager that the tenant is looking after the property is sufficient and photographs that include the tenants’ personal belongings, should be avoided.
Because a routine inspection is during a tenant’s occupancy and includes references to their tenancy or their personal information and has the potential to include photos of their belongings, they are entitled to request a copy of the inspection report. The property manager may, however, redact information that is not relevant to them if deemed necessary.
When taking photos, the key is to make sure there is a good reason for taking the photos, and that the photos are not unnecessarily intrusive. A tenant has the right to know what we are going to do with the photos.
Harcourts Foundation: Helping kiwi kids when they need it the most.
Harcourts Foundation is proud to support Gumboot Friday, which this year is being held on 4th November. Harcourts Foundation kick started its support with a $20,000 donation, which is a total that the team hope to increase significantly with the support of its people from offices all across New Zealand.
Gumboot Friday is a nationwide initiative which provides FREE kids counselling when it is really needed.
Since April 2019 Gumboot Friday has raised over 3 million dollars for free kids counselling. From this they have paid for over 21,000 sessions for just under 10,000 kids. The average cost per session is $138.00. They anticipate that with the money they have and what will be raised over the next 12 months, Gumboot Friday will pay for a further 20,000 free sessions before the end of 2023.
To learn how you can support Gumboot Friday visit www.gumbootfriday.org.nz and follow them on Instagram: @gumbootfriday
Harcourts Foundation will be showcasing all the fundraising activities and initiatives from their network through their social media channels.
Make sure you follow on Instagram @harcourtsfoundationnz and on facebook @theharcourtsfoundationto see the fun being had to raise funds for our kiwi kids.
Harcourts excel in real estate industry awards
Harcourts New Zealand are thrilled to have won the top prize in seven categories at this years’ 2022 Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) awards.
In the awards which Harcourts won this year, our Property Management team secured three property management awards. Winning – Residential property manager of the year, Residential property management business development manager of the year, and Residential property management large office of the year. Harcourts were also finalists in the Residential property management medium office of the year and Residential property manager of the year categories.
With the honours spread far and wide across the Harcourts network. Bryan Thomson, Managing Director, Harcourts New Zealand said, ‘This is a symbol of how the Harcourts network continue to work as a team and to uphold excellent standards of service to all New Zealanders.’