As part of the rental application, a landlord needs to collect confidential data about a potential tenant in order to determine if they are suitable for the suite or home they wish to rent. Sensitive data may include employment information, bank account and credit history, social security numbers, and previous addresses, all of which are of interest to an identity thief. A landlord may also know personal information about the tenant, including marital status, children, and other sensitive data that legally shouldn’t be on paper.
In the USA, both personal and confidential tenant data is protected, and a landlord is prohibited from releasing any financial or personal data to a third party, without written consent of the tenant. Confidentiality of tenant information is a landlord’s responsibility, and it’s their job to ensure that their tenant’s personal and financial information is protected from nosy neighbors, debt collectors, or fraudsters who may be fishing for information. When tracking tenant information you need to ensure that their confidential data is kept secure. This is applicable to either paper records and computer data.
Keep tenant records under lock and key
Rental applications can be the main source of confidential tenant data. Once an application has been processed and accepted, there’s no reason to leave it out in the open. Keep tenant records in a filing cabinet that locks securely or in a closet with a deadbolt when not in use. File essential paperwork immediately. If you’re leaving the office, lock your door behind you.
Keep sensitive information in a folder
It takes only a moment for someone to read information off a document. When processing rental applications, keep in mind the foot traffic through the office. Flip papers over or tuck them into a file folder so that passersby can’t read tenant information in passing.
Protect computerized files
Tenant files kept on a computer should be protected with the same care that is taken with paper files. Protect access to your computer with a strong eight character password. Take this security one step further to ensure that all confidential files storing tenant information are also password protected.
Protect information in transit
Dissuade prying eyes from flipping open unattended files. If tenant records are stored securely off-site, transport them in a locking briefcase. This provides one extra level of protection, in case you leave it unattended for any length of time.
Shred non-essential files
Carelessly tossing rejected rental applications into the bin is a violation of state laws. Run any non-essential papers through the shredder to ensure that any information containing personal identities or credit card or banking information is destroyed.
Don’t reveal information about tenants
Whether someone calls you for information about a tenant or you’re speaking to their neighbor, it’s important to avoid talking about that person without written consent from the tenant. Discussing other tenants without their consent is unprofessional behavior that can land you in trouble, particularly if you inadvertently disclose information. It’s best to inform the other party of your policy and change the topic. Possible exceptions may include written consent from the tenant which may involve providing confirmation that they lived at your location for a certain length of time, or when requested by a law enforcement official.
Landlords may learn more information about a tenant than they need or want to know, but they have the responsibility to ensure that tenant information stays between landlord and tenant, and is not shared via a third party. As a landlord, it’s part of your job to protect personal and confidential data about your tenants from third party requests. If in doubt, obtain written permission from your tenant before sharing their confidential data.
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