July 7, 2022

Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment
By: metronz

An essential part of being a landlord is finding good, reliable tenants who will take good care of the property they stay in and pay their rent on time. Therefore, it’s natural to want to know a lot of information about prospective tenants you are interviewing to determine whether they seem reliable. 

However, did you know there are certain things you are not allowed to ask? And, if you do step over this line and ask specific questions that could make your potential tenant uncomfortable, you could be facing some hefty fines. New Zealand’s updated privacy laws mean that there are some things you can ask about and some things you absolutely should not ask about. 

So, how can you ensure that you follow the law, and what are you still allowed to ask?

What Are Privacy Laws?

Privacy laws are set in place to protect a tenant’s personal information. While there are some things that a potential landlord should know, like their legal name, there are some things that are not relevant and should not be asked about, like sexuality or personal beliefs. If you ask for irrelevant information that may be too personal or has nothing to do with their ability to be a reliable tenant, you could be breaching the privacy act. 

This act may also help prevent discrimination towards certain groups. For example, because landlords are not allowed to ask about gender identity or religious preferences, they cannot reject a tenant based on that information. Discrimination is rejecting tenants based on nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation or certain other information.

Not complying with this privacy act can lead to significant fines of up to $10,000.

How Can I Make Sure I’m Complying With Privacy Laws?

Now that you know that the privacy laws limit what you can ask tenants and that there are some large fines if you do ask for personal information that is not needed, you might be worried about watching what you say. Of course, we should all strive to stick to regulations, especially when trying to do something serious like managing a property well.

Luckily, there is a simple solution to this issue - an experienced and knowledgeable property manager can help you search for and question tenants correctly and legally. A good property manager will stay up-to-date with New Zealand’s current laws and help you follow the rules. With their help, you won’t have to stress over memorising everything that’s okay and not okay to say. 

Excellent property managers will also know that you are only allowed to get information from potential tenants in certain ways. For example, you can request specific information, like their name and contact details. But, you are not allowed to collect data on a potential tenant through social media, nor are you allowed to look up their credit report without their consent. 

A good thing to keep in mind when asking for information is ‘is this information relevant to this person being one of my tenants?’ If it’s not, you probably shouldn’t question it. 

A few things that you are allowed to ask a potential client during the application process are:

  • Name And Contact Details
  • Whether Or Not They Are Eighteen Years Old Or Older
  • If They Have Pets
  • If They Smoke 
  • Character References
  • How Many People They Will Be Living With At Your Property
  • How Long They Plan On Living At Your Property
  • Consent For A Credit Report Check Or Criminal Record Check

All of the above-listed information is relevant to your potential tenant’s status as a reliable renter and can help you determine if you want to trust them or not with your property. 

Conversely, it would be best if you did not ask for the following information because it does not affect their status as a dependable renter:

  • Nationality Or Ethnicity
  • Physical Or Mental Disabilities 
  • Personal Beliefs
  • Gender Identity Or Sexual Orientation
  • Employment History

I Would Like Some Help Managing My Property Correctly And Legally, Who Can I Speak To For Professional Assistance?

If you want to comply with all the applicable laws and manage your property like an expert, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your property is to hire a reliable property manager - and at Metro NZ Property Management, we are here to assist you as best as we can. 

Our property management service helps property owners like you make sure you are being as smart as possible with your property. We can help you look after your property, search for new tenants and, of course, follow all of New Zealand’s rules and regulations. 

We know that every property is different and that you might have specific requests or questions about what we can do for you. So, for more helpful information, we invite you to visit our contact page or call us at +64 9 391 4642.

Comply with the law and ensure your property is managed well with us at Metro NZ Property Management.