As a landlord, you want tenants who will care for your property and fulfil their obligations. The pre-tenancy stage is an opportunity to gather information that will help you make your decision. As a general principle, the Privacy Commissioner said “Landlords should only collect the minimum amount of personal information necessary to make that decision.” For instance, if a credit report shows that an applicant is creditworthy, there’s no need to collect their bank statements. Also The Human Rights Act prevents a landlord from discriminating against a tenant based on their age, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, race, employment status, marital status or beliefs. Since you can’t use this information to choose a tenant, it’s not necessary to collect it at all.
Some property managers ask to see the prospect’s bank statement before making a decision as to who to let out the property to.
However, prospect tenants have a right to refuse to show you.
Recently, the Privacy Commissioner released a guideline as what personal information landlords can request from a prospective tenant.
To make it easier to read, the Privacy Commissioner’s guidelines is divided into 3 segments:
Questions almost always justified for a landlord/property manager to ask, Questions that are sometimes justified for a landlord/property manager to ask, and Questions that are almost never justified for a landlord/property manager to ask.
The questions you can always ask prospective tenants relate to:
- Name and proof of identity
- Contact information (so you can reach the prospect)
- Name and contact information for current landlord (so you can call the current landlord and ask for a reference)
- One or two previous landlords as references
- Expected length of tenancy applied for
- Whether the applicant has ever been evicted
- Pet ownership
- Whether the applicant must give notice at their current accommodation (so the landlord has an idea of when the prospect tenant can move)
- Authorisation to perform a criminal record check
- Number of occupants who will live in the unit
If you need more information to justify whether the prospect can pay the rent, you can ask
- Personal references – where landlord references aren’t available
- Current income verification (e.g. pay slips, redacted bank statements) – where satisfactory references aren’t available
- Authorisation to collect a credit report – where satisfactory references aren’t available
However, any specific questions relating to the following are almost never justified to be asked to a prospective tenant during the pre-tenancy stage:
- Broad consent to collect personal information from “other sources”
- Credit card information
- Nationality, ethnicity, origin or citizenship
- Physical or mental disability or illness
- Personal beliefs or opinions
- Marital and family status
- Gender and sexual orientation
- Rent paid at previous tenancy
- Current expenses
- Proof of insurance
Of course, after you ave selected a tenant, you can ask for further information such as
- The payment information you’ll need to collect rent (is it going to be auto payment or direct debit)
- The name and number / address of an emergency contact person
- Vehicle information, such as vehicle registration number, make and model, if the tenant will be parking on your property
- Name and number of emergency contacts.