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Is your letting agent hiding behind the Data Protection Act?

PUBLISHED: 10:19 10 September 2018

Pic: www.gettyimages.co.uk

Pic: www.gettyimages.co.uk

Does your letting agent hide behind the Data Protection Act to avoid sending you vital paperwork? Mike White, from Martin & Co in Norwich, discusses.

Mike White, lettings agent at Martin & Co, Norwich. Pic: www.edp24.co.ukMike White, lettings agent at Martin & Co, Norwich. Pic: www.edp24.co.uk

It never ceases to surprise when competitor agents, having been disinstructed in our favour, seek to hide behind the Data Protection Act when trying to get out of sending us vital paperwork belonging to their former landlord client.

Since the advent of the new GDPR regulations in May, this seems to be even more prevalent.

We experienced just such an incidence a couple of weeks ago, where the property they were managing had been sold to one of our clients who inherited the tenants found by this particular agent. (Better
they remain nameless until the matter is resolved or we report them to Trading Standards, whichever comes sooner).

On the basis that the new owner is now the legal owner of the tenancy agreement, gas safety certificate, original reference reports, keys and whatever other paperwork may be relevant, we duly requested the former agent put together a package which we would be pleased to collect from their office. Their response was they couldn’t for “GDPR/Data Protection reasons”.

Without wishing to put too finer point on it - this is complete UTTER RUBBISH (unless of course the reason they can’t share them is they didn’t get any of this in the first place).

At Martin & Co in Norwich we believe our client is the boss and we’re simply their employee (or agent). So before we even embark on the referencing process, we seek our client’s permission to go ahead and when we have received back the comprehensive referencing report, this is most definitely shared with the landlord. After all, who does the report belong to, anyway?

Some time ago, we took over a client from another agency who hid behind the Data Protection Act. On checking, we found they weren’t even registered with the appropriate authorities (for which they risked up to a £500,000 fine).

There again, the same agent was neither registered with the Property Ombudsman nor with one of the professional regulatory bodies such as NALS or ARLA. So the likelihood was they didn’t bother segregating client funds nor carry professional indemnity insurance nor client money protection, all things a properly regulated agent will most definitely have.

The Data Protection Act 2018 requires every organisation processing personal information to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), unless they are exempt. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.

There are more than 370,000 registered data controllers. The ICO publish the name and address of these, as well as a description of the kind of information processing they do. If you want to see whether your agent is registered as a “data controller” take a look at the Information Commissioner’s website at www. http://ico.org.uk/

While you’re taking a look at this, why not take the few minutes necessary to register yourself as a landlord with the ICO, unless you already have of course? You may not think of yourself as running a business
and may be assuming that you can rely on GDPR exemptions that apply to people who are simply carrying out their own private affairs.

Or perhaps your existing agent has said you don’t need to register, as they’re providing a managed service.

Well I’m sorry to tell you, this is wrong on both counts, we believe all landlords will be a business for the purpose of registration.

As with anything to do with being a landlord and government legislation, this is all extremely confusing.

Did you know there are now 146 different laws which landlords need to be mindful of? If you’re not completely certain that your current agent is protecting you from every single one of these, then give me a call.

You can contact Mike White, of Martin & Co, sponsors of this article, on 01603 766860.

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