(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

Alberni university zeroes in on disability and poverty

BY MIKE YOUDS SPECIAL TO THE NEWS The road to poverty can… Continue reading

Celebrate cycling in Port Alberni during Bike to Work and School Week

Numerous ‘celebration stations’ are planned for May 28 to June 2

Ahousaht welcomes massive Surfrider Canada conference to Meares Island near Tofino

“It was the first time we’ve all come together.”

Alberni RCMP kept busy with 170 calls over May long weekend

Detachment answers calls from fatal vehicle crash to man with a gun, trailer thefts

Alberni pub owner kicks off new event for car lovers

Car enthusiast Helen Poon debuts Cars and Coffee on May 27

Black Press Media to launch Pipeline Full of Controversy series

Series covers Trans Mountain’s history, science, Indigenous reaction, politics and economics

Bug spray 101: Health Canada wants you to stay bite free

Health Canada is reminding Canadians to use bug spray and other insect repellents safely

Unions reject CP Rail contract offers

Both meeting Friday to determine next steps; 72 hours notice required before strike action.

B.C. jewellers warn public about fake gold scam

‘They are playing on people’s sympathy and their greed’

Hunt continues for two suspects in Ontario restaurant explosion

The explosion left 15 people injured, but all victims have now been released from hospital

B.C. teacher charged with sexual offences involving two teens

Henry Kang, 50, of Abbotsford charged with two counts each sex assault and sexual exploitation

Toronto Raptors star to hold basketball camp in B.C.

DeMar DeRozan is hosting a four-day camp for players aged 6-16 at the University of Victoria

Military college students accused of violating Qur’an with bacon

Alleged acts by four cadets from the Royal Military College in Quebec caught on video

Canucks sign top prospect Elias Pettersson to entry-level deal

Slick centre drafted No. 5 overall in 2017 NHL draft

Most Read