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Consumer Guide to Privacy
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This FAQ differentiates between privacy and confidentiality, and how your personal information can and cannot be used by your agent, their brokerage, your landlord and/or your strata council.
What is the difference between confidentiality and privacy?
While it is true that the two terms are similar, confidentiality in this consumer guide relates to the obligations set out for real estate professionals under the Real Estate Services Act (RESA). The duty of confidentiality required under RESA only pertains to information a real estate professional and their brokerage use from current or former clients.
Privacy, on the other hand is discussed through the lens of the Privacy Information Protection Act (PIPA) which is provincial legislation that outlines how anyone’s personal information may be used, whether they are a client or not. It also imposes restrictions on how information can be obtained, stored, and destroyed under varying circumstances and how that information can be obtained.
As a tenant, can a landlord or rental property manager look at my social media pages to determine if they should rent me a space?
Landlords may only ask for information that is appropriate for the task at hand. The information must be that which a reasonable person would consider appropriate such as asking for:
- current and past tenancies;
- publicly available court and tribunal records;
- credit report; and
- Social Insurance Number.
Can a landlord use information on my social media accounts against me in my application to rent?
It is a common misconception that anything that can be viewed on social media is public and can be collected. By way of viewing any information on social media, your landlord is deemed to have collected it. Landlords and rental property managers are not permitted to collect information from social media on you when you are applying to rent a property. They can collect information from publicly available sources, as defined in PIPA as business directories, newspapers, and magazines. This does not include social media.
Even if they obtain your consent to collect information from your social media account, it is still problematic as they may collect more information about you than what a reasonable person would consider appropriate in the circumstances.
Once I am a tenant, can my landlord collect more personal, private information about me?
Once tenancy has been established, your landlord may collect additional information needed to provide the services you contracted for. Some examples of further personal information would include your:
- license plate number to allow for authorized parking; or
- insurance policy to satisfy their lender requirements.
Once your personal information is obtained and collected, the landlord must ensure that the information is only used for the purposes in which it was intended. In only limited circumstances can a landlord disclose the personal information of their tenant without consent. Some of these circumstances include:
- where it is in the interests of the tenant and consent cannot be obtained in a timely manner;
- when the disclosure is used for the purposes of contacting next of kin due to an emergency or death;
- where the disclosure is required or authorized by law; and
- for the purposes of an investigation by law enforcement or other federal or provincial agencies.
Privacy laws are complicated and can often be difficult to interpret.
Does my strata council have to provide me with information about my neighbours if I ask for it or can they provide my neighbours information about me?
Both the Privacy Information Protection Act and the Strata Property Act address what information may be collected, how it can be stored, and when it must be destroyed. Some information about you, such as your name and address might be included in strata council minutes or AGM minutes. Other information may be contained on documents such as a Form B which is provided to potential buyers of your property.
It is a good idea to review the Strata Property Act and the Privacy Information Protection Act to determine exactly what information can be gathered by a strata council and how it may be used.
This content was developed with financial support from the Real Estate Foundation of BC.