If you’ve rented a property, information about you, including testimonials from landlords, may lie in the vaults of a tenant-checking service such as Namecheck, Tenantcheck or Tenancy Information New Zealand (TINZ).
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The services collate a raft of publicly available information and run credit checks on prospective tenants. Landlords and property managers often use these services when you apply for a tenancy.
The sort of information collected by these services can include:
Your credit score. Tenants should request a copy of their credit files regularly and seek correction of any incorrect information.
Your criminal and driver licence history. If you give permission. This may be buried in the tenancy application form, so keep an eye out.
News coverage. If there are unfavourable news stories about you, it might be worth front-footing with the landlord.
Photographs. If you gave permission to previous landlords. TINZ encourages landlords to provide a “close-up photo of each tenant’s photo ID” because “should the tenancy ever go sour, debt collectors or bailiffs love to have a photo”.
Social media profile. You may want to review your privacy settings on Facebook and other websites.
Tenancy Tribunal decisions. These are publicly available.
Testimonials. If you gave permission to previous landlords to provide one. Again, you might have given permission when you signed a tenancy application form.
There’s no time frame for how long a tenant-checking agency can hold your information, but you can request a copy of the information. This must be provided for free within 20 working days. If there’s an error, request a correction. If it refuses, ask it to attach your statement about the correction you’ve sought.
The Privacy Commissioner’s office says it’s had “a small number” of inquiries and complaints about tenant-vetting services.
In response to tenant “blacklists”, Australian regulators require property managers to notify you if they intend to list you on this type of database. We’d like to see similar rules here.