As a business owner or landlord in British Columbia (BC), you need to adhere to the rules in the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) when you collect customer information.

In this guide, we cover the key aspects of PIPA that every landlord and property manager in BC needs to know to safeguard your tenants’ privacy rights and protect your own interests.

Before we get into the details, here’s a brief summary of what you should know:

  • Only collect necessary personal information (PI)
  • Get consent from your tenant before collecting PI
  • Provide the reasons for collecting it
  • Only use PI for the stated purposes
  • Keep the data safe
  • Provide access to the information if requested by your tenant (you can charge them)

Read on to learn how to help safeguard your tenants’ privacy rights and protect your own interests.

What Is Personal Information (PI)?

Personal information refers to details about an identifiable individual – including name, age, home address, phone number, medical information, biometrics, marital status, education, employment, or credit scores.

Any factual or subjective information that can be linked to an identifiable person is considered to be personal information.

As a landlord, you’ll handle PI requiring PIPA compliance when you deal with:

  • Rental applications & references
  • Lease agreements
  • Contact information
  • Move in and move out inspection reports
  • Rent payment receipts

Getting Consent & Collecting PI From Tenants

Before collecting any PI from a tenant, you need to get their consent, and clearly communicate the reason you’re collecting it.

Only collect the personal information that’s necessary for the business of managing the property. Only use the information for its stated purpose, whether it’s assessing tenant suitability, lease management, or tax record keeping.

Unless required by law, you should only disclose information for purposes consented to by the tenant, such as evaluating their credit score or checking their references.

Tip: Create a standardized consent form that outlines the specific information being collected and the intended use. You can then use this form with all of your tenants during the application process.

Retain PI For 1 Year

In BC, tenants have a right to access any personal information used to make a decision that directly affects them.

  • As a landlord in British Columbia, PIPA requires you to retain PI collected from tenants for a reasonable period after using it – at least 1 year.
  • The Residential Tenancy Act, landlords should keep records for at least 2 years.
  • For tax reporting and audit purposes, landlords should retain lease agreements and payment records for at least 7 years.

Tip: Implement a document retention policy that specifies how long different types of information will be kept. Regularly review and update your records to ensure accuracy and compliance.


Safeguarding PI

While PI is in your possession, you have to implement appropriate safeguards to protect the personal information from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, copying, modification, or disposal.

For example, use a secure storage (digital or lockbox) with access control, and only retain information as long as is necessary for business purposes.

Landlords should consider encryption, password protection, and restricted access to safeguard tenant data.

Tip: Educate staff and property managers on privacy protocols to prevent accidental breaches. Conduct periodic training sessions to reinforce security awareness, and regularly review best practices for data protection.


Responding to Access Requests

If a tenant wants access to any of their personal information that a landlord has stored, the landlord is required to respond to the request within 30 days of receiving the request.

When responding to access requests, landlords should provide a clear and concise summary of the requested information. Alternatively, you can also provide a reasonable opportunity for the tenant to examine the information themselves.

If a landlord decides to refuse access for any reason, they must provide reasons for the refusal and inform the tenant of their right to request a review.

Tip: Maintain a log of access requests and responses in case of disputes, and keep all your communications in writing.


Fees for Access Requests

Landlords in BC have the right to charge a minimal fee for personal information access requests. If you decide to charge a fee, make sure to follow the appropriate guidelines:

  • Provide a written estimate of the fee before providing the service, so tenants are aware of the cost
  • You may ask for a deposit to cover a portion of the fee or the entire amount
  • Should specify your accepted payment methods (ex: cash, check, electronic)


Disposal of PI

Once personal information has served its intended purposes for tax, compliance, and business purposes, landlords must securely dispose of documents containing PI or eliminate any way of attributing PI to specific individuals.

Use secure disposal methods like shredding or digital deletion so there is no residual information.

Tip: Review the data you have stored on a routine basis. Delete any unnecessary or outdated records to reduce the risk of accidental disclosure.


Tenant’s Right To Withdraw Their Information

Tenants have the right to withdraw consent at any time, subject to legal or contractual restrictions. Landlords must inform tenants of the implications of such withdrawal.


Practical Tips for Landlords About PIPA

Develop a Privacy Policy: Craft a clear privacy policy detailing how tenant information is collected, used, stored, and shared. Make this policy easily accessible to tenants to review.

Educate Yourself and Staff: Ensure that anyone involved in managing tenancy agreements understands your privacy policy, the PIPA requirements and adheres to them.

Be Prepared for Breaches: Have a plan in place for dealing with data breaches, including containment, evaluating the risks, notifying affected individuals, and contacting appropriate authorities, if necessary.

Conduct Regular Audits: Conduct regular audits of your privacy practices to ensure compliance with PIPA.


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