With near-zero rental vacancy rates in Metro Vancouver and other parts of BC, those who are on the hunt for a home may feel like they’re required to hand over an excessive amount of personal information for the privilege of being considered as a prospective tenant.
Now, a new report from BC’s acting privacy commissioner Drew McArthur seems to confirm those suspicions.
McArthur said the dismal vacancy rate has created “a competitive market where landlords can ask prospective tenants for sensitive personal information as justification for seeking the ‘best tenant.'”
The unfortunate result of this, he explained, is “many applicants feel they have no choice but to provide this information to avoid missing out on a place to live.”
McArthur’s complete finding were released in a report today, entitled, Always, Sometimes, or Never? Personal Information and Tenant Screening.
The investigation examined the personal information collected by 13 landlords from prospective tenants during the tenancy application process. Landlords and non-profit organizations in BC are subject to the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA), which regulates how organizations collect personal information.
The report details when personal information is always, sometimes, or never authorized by PIPA.
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But, it added, “PIPA limits the personal information that may be collected, used or disclosed to only what is reasonable to achieve the purpose.”
McArthur said he understands that landlords need good information to make the right decision to protect their assets, and that a bad tenant can be difficult to evict.
“PIPA recognizes their legitimate need to collect information, but also establishes clear boundaries that they must respect,” he said.
In light of the report, McArthur’s recommendations include that landlords:
- Limit the amount of required personal information on tenant application forms;
- Clearly state the specific purpose for the collection of personal information from prospective tenants;
- Require a credit check only when a prospective tenant cannot provide sufficient references about previous tenancies or satisfactory employment and income verification;
- Never collect information from social media platforms or internet search engines.
“As a landlord, you are not looking for a best friend; you’re looking for a tenant,” said McArthur.
“You cannot take advantage of the imbalance of power to require applicants to complete a behavioural questionnaire, or provide three months’ worth of bank statements.”