House viewers asked to hand over social media accounts and PPS numbers

Landlords are seeking extensive amounts of personal information, including PPS numbers, photo ID, and access to would-be renters’ social media accounts before they can view a potential rental property.

In a number of cases, agencies have used third-party websites to collate and store information and to vet potential applicants. In addition to asking for client information such as contact details, applicants were asked for PPS numbers, pictures, and even links to their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn social media profiles.

The more information that was supplied, the more points that would be assigned to an applicant. The applicants with the most points allocated would be given preferential treatment when it came to viewing properties which became available.

Tenancy protection charity Threshold has issued a warning about the growing volume of personal data being sought by landlords and letting agents at the pre-letting stage of renting in the private market.

While the practice is not illegal, Threshold has warned it is on the increase nationally despite the Data Protection Commission explicitly stating last November that landlords should not ask for an individual’s picture or PPS number during the initial phase of the letting process.

PPS numbers should only be requested when a lease is being agreed to register the property with the Residential Tenancies Board, the commission said.

Cathy Finnegan, communications executive with Threshold, said the practice is becoming more common in an increasingly competitive private rental sector and a number of its clients have expressed concern about the potential GDPR ramifications of handing personal information to landlords or letting agencies.

“Some of our clients are encountering new obstacles to simply view a property,” she told the Irish Examiner.

“We regularly receive queries from clients regarding screening processes employed by some letting agencies or landlords and, in some instances, we have raised particular cases with the Data Protection Commission on behalf of clients.

“Threshold is concerned about the level of data being sought by some landlords or letting agents at the pre-letting stage.”

Ms Finnegan warned that many people are now simply being excluded from the rental process due to these practices.

“It is clear that the private rented sector is not an even playing field,” she said.

“The competition to view a property has become more intense. It is a numbers game. Some people just don’t count; they are not even at the races.

“Families and individuals who may be in receipt of social welfare payments, on social housing waiting lists or seeking to move from emergency accommodation will be thwarted when faced with a series of thinly veiled questions that loosely translate as ‘no housing assistance payment’.

Stephen Faughnan, chairperson of the Irish Property Owners’ Association (IPOA), said his organisation is working with landlords to educate them on appropriate practices regarding tenants and he felt the vast majority of landlords are “responsible and compliant”.

He said landlords must be diligent to ensure they do not rent the property to the “wrong person” who might damage it.

He said landlords must comply with GDPR and the IPOA has held a number of events to make him “confident their members have been adequately informed of their responsibilities under GDPR”.

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