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18 July 2022

Transcript: A Home For Sensitive Information - Consume This podcast

How much information should a landlord or property manager ask for? In this episode we delve into the thorny issue of power imbalance in the New Zealand residential rental market. Plus, what can go wrong when your sensitive information isn't protected.

Sophie Richardson: Kia ora. Before we get into this episode I'm gonna kick off with a bit of a bold statement. It shouldn't be bold, but I feel like it is. Landlords are business owners and service providers, and tenants are their customers. Being a business comes with responsibilities to your customers. If you don't agree with that, quite frankly, you can get in the sea.

(Sea splash sound)

Sophie Richardson: You're listening to Consume This with me, a slightly sick Sophie Richardson. So let's get into it.

(🎵 Music 🎵)

Rachel Kann: Um, in terms of affordability, I see a lot of bank statements, because I do ask for bank statements to show affordability, because I don't want to just put a tenant into a property and no sooner have they been put in they can't afford the rent. So I actually, like a mortgage broker, want to assess that they can afford that mortgage.

They're paying somebody's mortgage. Right. And I see a lot of people who are low socioeconomic and their bank statements literally will read KFC, McDonald's, the dairy, KFC, McDonald's, court fine. Um, the, the trucks where they buy goods that they can't afford. You know, I see a lot of mismanagement of money.

Sophie Richardson: This is a recording of Auckland-based property manager Rachel Kann.

She was speaking at a 2018 Social Services Select Committee hearing. You might have come across it before; it's become somewhat infamously known as the KFC test. If you made it past the disclaimer at the start of this episode, then like me, you probably thought, huh, sorry, come again, Rachel? This isn't okay. Four years on and I'm still a little bit shocked that she felt comfortable to talk that candidly in a public forum. We did get in touch with Rachel, but she wasn't interested in talking to us. Instead, she pointed us in the direction of David Pearse, chairman of the Residential Property Managers Association.

David Pearse: Unfortunately, she used the word KFC, and the sound bite and that's all that everyone remembers her for. But that's unfortunately that's politics, isn't it?

Sophie Richardson: We'll hear more from David later.

The select committee was consulting on changes to the Residential Tendencies Act. That's a law that sets out what your rights and responsibilities are as a landlord or tenant. In a small win for tenant's rights, the legislation was updated shortly after that hearing, but something else changed that day as well. What Rachel didn't - and possibly still doesn't - realise is that she set in motion another investigation. An investigation into the... let's say, interesting, or more likely, questionable privacy and human rights practices by some landlords and property managers.

And just a note here: in this episode we'll be using those terms fairly interchangeably. Ah, and on another note, just because I know we'll get complaints - #NotAllLandlords, guys.

The investigation that Rachel kicked off was launched by the Office Of The Privacy Commissioner, aka OPC, where I just happened to be working at the time. In broad strokes, OPC works to develop and promote a culture in which personal information is protected and respected. That involves, amongst other things, developing guidance for industries and investigating individual privacy complaints. Post Rachel's KFC test speech OPC started getting inquiries from government agencies and the media asking what could be done to protect tenant's privacy.

In response to all this, they issued guidance to landlords covering which kinds of data they could, and crucially, couldn't collect, as well as advice on the best practice for storage and disposal. Unfortunately, nothing much changed. And due to a quirk of the law, OPC didn't have the power to do much about it.

The Privacy Act gave them the power to investigate an issue when they received a complaint, and tenants... well, they weren't complaining. Ashok Jacob: And the answer to that, when you think about it, is completely obvious. In that, when people question their relationship with their landlord or question a relationship with a property manager, there is a non-zero chance that they're gonna become homeless.

Sophie Richardson: This is Ashok Jacob. He runs the privacy campaign for the tenant's advocacy group, Renters United.

Ashok Jacob: Housing being one of the fundamental human rights and human needs means that you can't leave it to individuals to enforce their own rights, because people just aren't going to. People are going to accept things that they know are illegal, because it means that they're still gonna have a roof over their head. And while the market is what it is and, and supply is so tight of rentals in so many places, people are not gonna take the risk because it's not worth questioning this if it means that the roof over your head is gonna be taken away.

Sophie Richardson: And right there, he's got straight to the heart of the issue. Renters across the country put up with a lot because whatever harm might be caused by having your personal details, maybe your bank statements, passport scan leaked online, it's not so immediate as having nowhere to live. There's a huge power imbalance between landlord and tenant.

Ashok Jacob: Yeah, absolutely. That was one of the key messages that we got from people was that – and it was not just true of privacy. It's true of pretty much everything that the people put up with illegal behavior from their landlords and their property managers, because they know that it's not worth questioning.

And I don't think you can treat a fundamental human right, a fundamental, basic, right like that. I work in employment relations and this is one thing that's fundamental about employment relations, and is recognized in the legislation: that there is an inherent inequality between employees and employers, because at the end of the day, the employer has the ability to say, okay, essentially, you're not gonna be able to pay your rent or buy groceries if you act up. And that same dynamic does exist in tenancy, but it isn't recognized to the same extent. That's a cause of a huge amount of problems in the sector.

Sophie Richardson: And of course, another huge issue is that you need to know what the regulations are before you can complain or enforce your rights. Which of course, a lot of us don't.

Ashok Jacob: And it's been sort of an open secret for a long time that landlords and property management companies, when asking people to apply for properties, were asking for all sorts of information, pretty much everything you can think of under the sun, no matter whether or not it breached the existing Privacy Guidelines or even breaching the Human Rights Act. And a lot of people just don't have the time or the energy to brush up on this stuff to the point where they feel comfortable and confident enough to make complaints.

Sophie Richardson: But don't worry, we've got you covered. I'll give you an overview of the rules and the process for making an anonymous complaint to OPC soon.

It was clear. There was a problem. The guidance wasn't being heeded by swathes of the property management industry, and no one was complaining. So it was tricky to do very much about it. That all changed in December 2020.

Jackie Adams: I'm Jackie Adams, I'm the compliance & enforcement manager with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. My team is the compliance and enforcement team.

Sophie Richardson: The key word here is enforcement. The Privacy Act was updated in 2020 and their guidance for landlords and tenants shortly after. The difference now is that OPC have some teeth. They might be baby teeth, but they're still teeth.

Jackie Adams: Under the old legislation, we could only investigate if we had a complaint. Under the new legislation, we can investigate if we think there's an issue.

So what we found was we didn't get any complaints from anybody about tenancy or about trying to get properties or anything like that. But what we did find was on our website, we got more hits on the guidance and advice around tenancy than any other subject. And we went through and- we don't follow when somebody goes into our website, we don't track who- obviously, we're the Office Of The Privacy Commissioner, we don't actually put cookies or anything. And we just see what pages of ours get opened. So the pages around tenancy, those guidance, questions, advice, they were getting more hits than anything else. So we thought, right, there may be an issue here. So we initially did some inquiries, went out and went through online, looked at a few application forms for people applying for properties.

We spoke to some of the tenancy advocate companies. We spoke to some of the property managers and their advocacy groups. And from that, we discovered that the amount of information that was being collected from somebody that was applying for a property was far and above what was needed. But as well as that, a lot of the information being collected was very, very dangerous information for people to have if they weren't looking after it properly.

Sophie Richardson: One of the tenancy advocacy groups Jackie is talking about here is Renters United.

Ashok Jacob: We surveyed our members around the country and asked them what sort of things they'd been asked by landlords and property managers when they were applying for properties. And we got back all these really kind of heartbreaking stories about people who'd been discriminated against based on the prejudices of the landlord or property manager.

So racial, ethnic, sexual, all those sorts of things. That's pretty basic human rights stuff, but that was happening in a fairly widespread way. There was also a lot of people who came back saying that – and this turned out to be quite widespread – that property managers and landlords were asking people about what their plans were regarding starting a family or whether or not they intended to have children. Which again, is specifically protected under the Human Rights Act, but seemed to be being disregarded because there was no regulation.

There was one company where the form was like 17 or 18 pages, a lot of times asking people for bank statements, they were just collecting vast amounts of data on vast amounts of people. The vibe that I got was that what we'd come back to OPC with was confirming a lot of their suspicions that, you know, the, the wild west of unregulated tenancy law had resulted in widespread breaches of the privacy laws and guidelines.

Sophie Richardson: We also decided to do our very own non-representative survey. We put a call out on the Consumer NZ Instagram page. And of the 40 people who replied to us, 22 that's over half, reported being asked for information that is either unreasonable or plain unlawful.

Now, obviously I'm not suggesting that all landlords, or even the majority, are asking those questions, after all, our respondents were self-selected. But it's enough of them that it's clearly an issue.

So before we go any further, let's address what property managers can and can't ask you for when you're applying for or renting a home from them. First up – and really this shouldn't need to be said, but apparently it does – they're absolutely not allowed to violate the Human Rights Act. That's non-negotiable. They're not allowed to ask you your sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, family, or relationship status, age, or race. That's the basic human rights stuff. They can't discriminate against you as a tenant on any of those bases.

They're also not allowed to share your details with third parties, or install cameras within the private areas of your home. It seems obvious, right? Another no-no is scanned copies of IDs, and Rachel Kann's favorite: bank statements.

Rachel Kann: KFC, McDonald's, the dairy, KFC, McDonald's, court fine.

Sophie Richardson: Big no-no.

Jackie Adams: It is legitimate to say: can you prove to me that you can pay for this house or you can pay this rent? But it is never okay to ask somebody for a bank statement.

What you're getting on a bank statement is a lot of very personal and very private information, which isn't actually relevant for the purpose of renting the house.

Sophie Richardson: Now, you could choose to supply a bank statement as that proof. But I'd encourage you not to. A pay slip works fine and gives away far less personal data.

Whether you recently ate at KFC or some fancy Ponsonby restaurant, it's really none of your landlord's business. Judging you on that is quite likely discriminatory, but despite this, our research has shown that it's still happening.

Zenani Moore: In my history, I've only ever rented. I've had student flats and then now rentals with my partner and we've always been asked for things like bank statements, pay slips. More recently, I got asked for my relationship status and then what his pay slips were.

And I was like, hang on a minute, it's a lot that you're asking for. But I guess, being in Auckland, finding a rental property and getting accepted, you take whatever you can get. So, I mean, if someone's asking me for that information, I'm like: here, have it all.

Sophie Richardson: This is Zenani Moore. She replied to our Instagram callout. The thing that struck me about her story is that her landlord managed to toy with human rights violations and also completely ignore the bank statement guidance at the same time. You know, that's quite impressive when you think about it.

Zenani Moore: Yeah. Our current landlord as well was asking about my relationship status because my partner and I are not married.

So it was kind of, how long have we been together? You know, proof that we're in a stable relationship. Have we got a joint bank account? All of these questions. And I was like, well, but if I'm gonna be on the tenancy agreement and I'm signing the rent, isn't that really my problem if he runs away from me?! I don't know, like I'm paying the rent, but yeah, it seems like a lot to be going right in-depth into your personal relationship. Just because, I don't know, we don't have a piece of paper to say that we are married, so therefore we're not stable. But then people get divorced all the time. So I don't know. It's like, what is a stable relationship and why does it matter? It feels really uncomfortable because then you're kind of like second guessing your own relationships. It's not your business, but I'll tell you, you know, so, because you've asked and I have to tell you.

Sophie Richardson: Zenani and her partner passed the somewhat arbitrary, totally unlawful relationship test. But now her potential landlady had their joint bank statements. It might not have been all fried chicken and court fines, but they still failed the infamous KFC test.

Zenani Moore: She looked at our spending and then she analysed whether or not, based on my partner and I's joint income, whether we could pay the rent each week. Which we could. I mean, we could pay it on one sole income, but then she decided, I guess in her head, we couldn't afford to rent off her. Um, and then it was only- I don't know, it came down to someone else pulled out that she then offered us the house.

So she said, oh, I guess money will be tight for you, but you can rent the property.

Sophie Richardson: This time around, it worked out for Zenani and her partner, but everything about the situation is just wrong. If Zenani decided to make a complaint to Jackie at OPC, which she's well within her rights to do, well, I reckon he'd take a dim view of this one. But if she complained, things might not have worked out so well.

Zenani Moore: Yeah, definitely. And I feel like, kind of, that was the position we were put in. Like I kind of feel if I hadn't have supplied that to her, well, then she would've just gone with the other couple and we would've lost this house that we really wanted to rent.

Sophie Richardson: And there it is, again, that power imbalance. An interesting point here is that it almost doesn't matter whether a landlord actually would turn down a tenant for enforcing their privacy rights.

The fact prospective tenants think they might is enough. We've heard about this from the OPC and tenant perspective, but what about landlords and property managers? What do they think about all of this?

David Pearse: Most tenants that I find, when it comes to private landlords, they don't really wanna upset the- you know, rock the boat.

Sophie Richardson: Remember Dave Pearse from the Residential Property Managers Association? Well, possibly unsurprisingly from a man who represents professional property managers, he thought tenants were much more likely to run into issues with private landlords. But he did confirm that if you proactively offer some extra information, you are more likely to be selected for a property.

David Pearse: Well, they automatically get shortlisted as far as I'm concerned. Because what happens is that if you get someone who sends you a TradeMe ad and says, hey, I'm interested in your property, give me a time when to look through – well, we get lots of those. You can get up to 40 of those. But at the end of the day, if you get five applicants and they're good and you actually ring them and talk to them on the phone and you actually do all your checks and have that quality professional service with them, and then you shortlist them down to a couple, it makes it so much easier for us.

We'll say: I like you, you're coming across great. You're giving us all the information. Why do I muck around showing all these Tom, Dick and Harry's through the property when I can just pick you and move on.

Sophie Richardson: And I can totally understand that from his perspective. After all, property managers are just trying to find the best tenants for their homes, or other people's homes. It makes a lot of sense and complies with the privacy rules.

But I feel like it does somewhat undermine the intention of them. There's also another issue that stems from all this data collection. One that's nothing to do with discriminatory practice from landlords, prejudice or breaches of the Human Rights Act. It's one of simple data security.

Property managers collect vast amounts of sensitive information about prospective tenants – information that can cause its subjects some serious harm if it falls into the wrong hands. Here's OPC’s Jackie Adams again...

Jackie Adams: This is information that has people's name, address, date of birth, mother's maiden name, copies of their passport, copies of their driver's license, bank statements – everything you need to clone somebody's ID and steal their life.

So if I said to you, right, I want you to go and photocopy your bank statement and your passport and your driver's license and all your life's history, and I want you to put it all together in a nice little folder, and then I want you to go and just throw it in a skip. You'd think I was nuts, but people are doing that.

Sophie Richardson: Now, it might sound bad. Because it is. But let's face it: as a society, we generally have quite a loose relationship with our personal data. We're often happy to give away vast amounts of it for small personal gains. Whether that's a club card at the supermarket, our Facebook account, or a hopeful property application, we usually make those trade-offs without really considering the downsides.

But according to the Department of Internal Affairs, over 100,000 of us are victims of identity theft annually. That's pretty insane for a nation of just 5 million. And one of the main things that identity thieves do is use your information to take out credit cards and loans – debt that they obviously have no intention of repaying. And that you might only find out about when the bailiffs turn up.

Jackie Adams: So the person who's identity's been cloned, it can take them up to two years to have their name cleared. First of all, they have to prove that they didn't take out the loan. Once they've gone through that process and they show that they weren't the one who took out the loan, took out the credit card, they then need to try and get it cleared.

So the credit companies will keep them on there as having a default against them. So then they've gotta try and get that removed. Now, the problem is during those two years, when they're going through that process, which is quite a pain in the backside, they now have a default, which means they're not able to get loans. They're not able to get a credit card. They're not able to rent a property because when they try and get a rental they'll come up as being a bad debtor. So for two years, their lives become really miserable. You think about anything you've done, where you need to be able to prove that you are a good upstanding person.

Well, for two years, they're seen as not being. So what I found when I spoke to a lot of the property managers, and I was saying to them, you do realize the value of that. And they didn't understand because they don't think of it from a criminal aspect. They're just trying to get the information to check out the individual, to make sure that they're a good person to put into the house.

When I was actually explaining what a criminal can do with that, they were actually quite shocked themselves. So those forms, they will sell on the dark web for a minimum of $25 a head. So if you can get in and you get information like that and, you're able to get people's name, address, date of birth, phone number, email, passport number, driver's license number, that's everything you need. That actually in itself is worth money.

Sophie Richardson: Now we need to be clear here, Jackie isn't alleging that the property managers are selling tenants’ data. There's no evidence of that. But there is clear evidence some of them have been mishandling personal information. As Jackie mentioned, sometimes that's physical un-shredded records that just mysteriously turn up somewhere else, or ID scans that have just been chucked in a bin, but it also extends to digital records.

(1News theme)

1News Presenter: Thousands of IDs, driver's licenses, birth certificates, even a passport belonging to an infant sitting exposed on the internet for years. 1News first reported on the privacy breach last week.

Sophie Richardson: A couple of years ago, property management firm LPM accidentally posted over 30,000 images of passport and driver's license scans to an unsecured Amazon Web Services database.

At an average resale value of around $20 per scan that made the whole database worth about $600,000. And that was just sitting there, available to anyone, and shockingly, once they were alerted to the issue LPM still didn't secure the database. Instead, two months after it was first reported, Amazon took the unusual step of doing it for them.

Amazon! Who thought they were the good guys?! This particular leak happened just before OPC gained their enforcement powers, but this is exactly the kind of situation they're designed to prevent, by making sure property managers are only holding the information they need long term. Which, by the way, doesn't include ID scans that you took at the start of a tenancy to make sure who you were renting to was who you thought it was. The amount of damage that a breach like this can cause is huge.

Jackie Adams: So we've gone around checking a number of the applications to make sure the applications fit in line with the guidance. We've been working with a number of the companies like TPS and Renti to make sure that they've put in new processes and new systems to make sure that that fits in line with the guidance.

Sophie Richardson: Full disclosure: at Consumer, our investigations team have been supporting OPC with this mystery shopping work. It's not quite completed, but once the full report is published, I'll add the links into the show notes.

Jackie Adams: We have issued warning letters and guidance letters to a number of property management companies. One of them has been issued a compliance notice. The compliance notice is something that we can put in place to tell them they must stop doing a certain thing.

If they don't, then it's a criminal offense to breach the compliance notice. They instantly stopped. We do have the right to publicly name and shame, but we've made a conscious decision that if we go to a company and tell them to fix something and they do that straight away, then we tend not to do that.

It's better for the public if we can fix the problem rather than just point at it. We can also then prosecute people for this as well. And they can face a $10,000 fine.

Sophie Richardson: If you've applied for a property online in the last couple of years, there's a good chance you've come across either TPS – known as – or Renti. They're the two main online application systems used by property managers.

Jackie Adams: Now I've worked with TPS and Renti to try and secure their systems and make them more in line with the Privacy Act. So under the old system that they had, people would go in, they would put in all their information and a property manager could see all the information for every person that applied.

I didn't believe that was required. If you have a hundred people applying for a property, why does the property manager need to see a hundred people's passports and driving licenses and everything else when some of them aren't gonna get it? So what they have now done is they've set up a two-stage process. You go in and you fill in the application form. You still fill the whole thing in. The property manager only gets to see the first part which has the key questions. From that they can then identify their preferred applicants. So they might have a hundred people apply. And from that, they will pick, say five preferred applicants.

Once they identify those five as preferred applicants, they then get to see the second part of the information, the more detailed information to help them decide which one of them should rent the property. That's where the two parts come in.

People will have to show how they can afford to pay for the property. They need to prove their identification to make sure that they're not telling lies, et cetera, et cetera, but there was no need for that to be shown up front.

Sophie Richardson: Dave, from the Residential Property Managers Association, is also, for the most part, a big fan of this system.

David Pearse: It's a great system. And again, I think it ticks all the box with the Privacy Commissioner.

So yeah, we can actually operate and follow that. So any company that's doing these things, we shouldn't have anything to worry about unless we're actually deliberately being deceptive. The only difficulty that we have is with regards to this whole thing of not being able to ask anybody any questions of anything until they've actually seen the property. And that's just actually made it hugely onerous for us.

Sophie Richardson: I asked Dave what he meant by that last bit, and he explained that his interpretation of the rules was that he couldn't select any preferred applicants, or see any information about prospective tenants until they had viewed the property. His concern is that now he needs to show each house to 40 or more people rather than selecting say five.

Now, personally, there's no way I'd apply to rent a house without seeing it. But for people with difficult schedules or who are moving regions, that might not be an option. I asked Jackie about this and he confirmed that Dave's interpretation was overly strict. If people want to apply for a property before seeing it, the manager is totally entitled to select preferred applicants and only take them on the viewing.

But despite all of this, and Jackie's best effort, there is still a big loophole. A property manager isn't allowed to ask for any of the personal information we've already mentioned, but as a prospective tenant, you can volunteer it. According to the Privacy Act that's totally fine. And it probably would be except there's that huge power imbalance that we talked about.

In a lot of areas, it's seriously hard to find a place to live. That leads to a lot of unspoken pressure on tenants. Pressure to oversupply information in order to increase their chances of securing a home. It might technically be an option not to, but in lots of areas that hasn't filtered through into reality.

Ashok Jacob: Uh, I mean, personally, I've been very forward with property managers that like, I have a stable job and that, you know, this is my pay slip and I'm gonna be able to service the rent. I don't really think I should have to unless I'm like a preferred applicant, and that is how it works in the regulations. But I still felt that it would help my application if I provided that information, even if I've not been asked for it. That's the case for many, many people.

Sophie Richardson: Jackie, of course, is also well aware of this.

Jackie Adams: Now, don't get me wrong. If you go into the form and all you put in there is your name, you're unlikely to get looked at for the property. But at the same time, the property manager cannot force you to put anything on there.

Sophie Richardson: But ultimately, his job isn't to fix the whole rental market. It's to make sure that the players are following the privacy rules.

Jackie Adams: And that's why a lot of them, and I have put this box in to say, if there's anything you want to add. Because it is up to the individual, it's their information. If they want to share it, I'm not gonna stop people from sharing things. So if they want to give it away, they can give it away. I just ask that they be very careful about what they're sharing.

Sophie Richardson: So where does this leave us? Well, as far as tenants go, everyone that we spoke to, even the ones who knew the rules, told us that they'd be very unlikely to seek to enforce them. Or to make a complaint.

Zenani Moore: Yeah. Auckland's so hard to find rental properties and to find good ones. So like I said, you'd give them anything. You're like, okay, I just have to. They're like, we want this. And I'm like, okay, I guess you get it.

Sophie Richardson: And as for Ashok from Renters United...

Ashok Jacob: I'm really pleased that the state sector is moving in the way of more active enforcement and an intervention in a way that hasn't been really how ideologically they operate for a long time.

I'm pleased that they're moving in that direction. But at the end of the day, I think the entire sector is so desperately in need of reform that it's not just gonna be piecemeal things about specific issues like privacy that are gonna make things better for a lot of people. I think there needs to be a massive reform of the way that we see tenancy and tenants’ relationship with landlords in New Zealand.

Sophie Richardson: Amen Ashok. It's also a sentiment that's shared by Jackie and, interestingly, Dave.

David Pearse: Oh, yes. We've been advocating that for years.

Sophie Richardson: Good on you, Dave.

David Pearse: And again, we get strong support from tenancy groups and from others, but again, this government has decided with regulation they would take that off the board. So they don't give us an opportunity. But we've all submitted to say that we want to see the whole industry looked at. It's the only way MBIE can get a control of what's really happening out there.

Sophie Richardson: So there we go. Property managers, regulators, tenants, they're all in favour of a holistic rethink of the way we regulate the rental market, but it's yet to materialise.

Fundamentally, however, there's a power imbalance between renters and landlords that any regulation is going to struggle to fix. There is neither the luxury of choice nor the security for renters to feel able and willing to enforce the rights they have already.

Whether a landlord would actually put someone on a blacklist, give a bad reference or otherwise is besides the point. The point is that renters are scared that they will, and this results in some landlords getting away with poor behavior.

In essence, landlords and the property managers acting for them are businesses. And like all businesses, they have to comply with the law. For example, a drinks manufacturer has to comply with food safety standards and they have independent monitoring and enforcement bodies that ensure that they're not selling ginger beer with snails in it. Shout out to all the Donahue and Stevenson stans. Cause no one wants a snail in their ginger beer, do they?

The unfortunate situation we have in New Zealand is that our housing market is so stretched that tenants are not only unable to say no to the snail ginger beer, but even if they complained about the presence of snails, there's a non-zero chance the snail provider will tell all the other snail providers not to sell them any ginger beer. The result? They die of thirst.

Okay. I may have taken that analogy a bit too far, but you get the point.

Bringing us back to privacy. There are technically 13 privacy principles, but really only two fundamental rules. They are: don't be a dick and don't be creepy. The entire Privacy Act minus some administrative bluff can be boiled down to these two rules.

Sounds pretty simple, right? And it is. Want to know the intimate details of your tenant's relationship? No, you're being creepy. Want to request a year's worth of bank statements to check if they're spending accords with your personal morals? No. It's not hard.

And for all the landlords out there – because New Zealand has a ton of them – yes, I know there are also asshole tenants. Yes, I know they are a pain. However, it's not all of them or even most of them. And at the end of the day, you're in a customer service role. Sometimes you have to deal with the shitty Karen. But remember that, landlords, and let that sink in. You are in a customer service role.

You are providing a service to your customers – the tenants – and your job is to ensure your service is of good value, quality, and reliability. And maybe no snails either.

(🎵 Music Plays 🎵)

And if you're a tenant and you feel a landlord is asking you for excessive sensitive, personal information, you can make a complaint anonymously to OPC via Where you can also find links to the OPC guidance for landlords & tenants, as well as a Consumer article on tenancy rights more generally. You've been listening to Consume This with me, a sick Sophie Richardson.

This episode was produced by Tom Riste-Smith, and executive produced by Gemma Rasmussen. Full disclosure: the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, didn't directly fund this podcast, but we are currently running an investigation into property management companies with OPC support.

Ma te wa.

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