Reports that a prominent estate agent is demanding copies of bank statements, before it will arrange viewings of homes, have been described as ‘extremely concerning’ by a Northside TD.
Social Democrats Housing Spokesperson Cian O’Callaghan also called on the Data Protection Commission to ‘immediately issue a statement’ on whether this practice is GDPR compliant.
“The extent of personal banking information that is reportedly being sought, to secure a viewing, is extremely concerning – as well as being a potential breach of GDPR,” Deputy O’Callaghan said.
“Why does an estate agent need to be provided with detailed financial information for the sole purpose of organising a viewing of a property – following which, a client may or may not opt to bid for the property?
‘Knowledge of mortgage approval should only be required if a client wishes to proceed to bid on a property. Even then, there is no reason why an estate agent should be provided with detailed bank statements.
“The Data Protection Commission has previously issued guidance for landlords, and letting agents, in relation to requesting personal information from potential tenants.
“[I]t will be difficult for a controller to justify, by reference to the principle of data minimisation, the extensive collection of personal data such as financial statements .. from numerous, or all, interested parties at the initial stages of advertising or hosting viewings of a property.
“This is because such information will generally not be necessary at the early stages of the leasing process, where interested persons may simply be looking to view a property or make enquiries in relation to it. In most cases such information will not be necessary until such time as a landlord decides upon a preferred tenant and makes an offer to a prospective tenant (which will usually be conditional on references, confirmation of ability to pay rent, etc.).”
“Applying the same GDPR principles to estate agents, blanket requests for the provision of detailed and extensive personal banking information to secure a viewing is contrary to data protection law.
“Serious questions arise about the manner in which this kind of information will be stored by estate agents and the manner in which it will be used.
“For instance, in a situation in which a bidding war develops for a property, estate agents will have the capacity to gauge buyers’ maximum bids – putting them at a potential disadvantage.
“The search for homes is stressful enough in the current climate, without estate agents putting further hurdles in the way. Personal information of this nature should only be sought when there is a specific and genuine purpose, which is in accordance with GDPR obligations.
“The Data Protection Commission should immediately issue a statement on whether this practice is GDPR compliant.”