Finding a rental unit in British Columbia, particularly in the Lower Mainland can be quite difficult. Not only is there more demand for housing than there is supply (at the time of writing this post, that is), once you find a place, your prospective landlord may be asking you for a lot of personal information - some of which you may not be comfortable disclosing.
In some instances, not providing the requested information as part of your application may result in your application being tossed. But that may not be a bad thing, after all.
If you are looking for a rental property in British Columbia, you may be wondering what kind of information a landlord can ask for during the application process. Landlords have a legitimate interest in screening potential tenants to ensure they are reliable, responsible and able to pay the rent. However, landlords also have a legal obligation to respect the privacy rights of applicants and tenants, and to collect, use and disclose personal information in accordance with the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA).
PIPA regulates how private sector organizations, including landlords, handle personal information. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C. (OIPC) is an independent body that oversees and enforces PIPA. The OIPC has issued guidance documents for private sector landlords and tenants, which provide practical advice on how to comply with PIPA and protect personal information.
According to the OIPC, landlords can only collect personal information that is necessary for the purposes of establishing, managing or terminating a tenancy agreement. This means that landlords should only ask for information that is directly related to their decision to rent the property, such as:
Name and contact information
Current address and previous rental history
References from previous landlords or employers
Proof of income or employment
Credit history or report
Landlords should not ask for information that is irrelevant, excessive or discriminatory, such as:
Social insurance number
Driver's license number
Bank account number
Health or medical information
Marital or family status
Ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation
Landlords should also obtain consent from applicants before collecting, using or disclosing their personal information, unless an exception applies under PIPA. Consent can be express or implied, depending on the circumstances and the sensitivity of the information. Landlords should inform applicants of the purposes for collecting their personal information, and how they will use and disclose it. Landlords should also ensure that they protect the personal information they collect from unauthorized access, use, disclosure or disposal.
If you have any questions or concerns about how a landlord is handling your personal information, you can contact the landlord directly and request an explanation. You can also contact the OIPC for more information.
Whether you're a landlord or a tenant, privacy concerns should not be taken lightly. If you have concerns about the application you have received from a prospective landlord, or are a landlord wanting to make sure your tenancy application complies with the law, get in touch with us and we can provide you with further legal advice.