Landlord Confidentiality

Posted by Teresa on November 20, 2009 under General | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenant confidentiality on tenant screening blogAs a landlord, you need to know a lot about your tenants, as well as those who have applied and been turned down to be tenants. Credit background checks, criminal background checks, and rental history—all part of thorough tenant screening—make you privy to personal information that could potentially harm these individuals, if ever used against them.

In certain states and localities, laws have been passed to protect tenants from landlords who would share their personal financial information, unless the tenant has given prior written consent. This means a landlord would not be allowed to share a tenant’s previous credit problems with a new landlord, or to disclose to a neighbor that the tenant had bounced a check.

Typical exceptions to these laws concern providing information that is already a matter of public record (although doing so might mean a landlord crossed an ethics line or two), providing information to police (which usually requires a warrant), and providing information about the tenant’s rent payment record.

In all other cases, a landlord must protect his or her tenant’s privacy and confidentiality of their personal information.

Landlords are often questioned by police investigating crimes on their property; it might seem reasonable that you would be covered if personal information is disclosed in the course of answering police questions, but that may not be true. Sharing information you have because the tenant provided it to you or allowed you to conduct a background check is not okay just because it is the police doing the inquiring. Ask for a warrant, or ask your legal counsel before you disclose personal information about a tenant—otherwise you are in danger of being sued yourself!