Question from Ann:
Can I ask a tenant applicant whether he/she has ever stayed at the Women’s Refuge?
No. We see this as contravening privacy principle 1 of the Privacy Act being that the only personal information a landlord can collect during the application
stage has to be information that is necessary for the landlord to determine whether to grant to or withhold the tenancy from the applicant. We do not
see how a tenant’s history of being a victim of abuse objectively qualifies or disqualifies her for a tenancy and therefore do not consider it necessary information for the purpose of privacy principle 1.
We are also concerned that the landlord could inadvertently breach the Human Rights Act and s12 of the Residential Tenancies Act during the course of collecting
and using such sensitive information. While victimhood is not a prohibited ground of discrimination, it is not inconceivable for the landlord to become
aware of the tenant’s marital status, disability (including physical and psychiatric illness) and/or family status, all of which are captured by the
Human Rights Act as prohibited grounds of discrimination. Should the landlord subsequently refuse to grant the tenancy even for other valid reasons,
she could be opening herself up to an s12 claim of unlawfulness or be subject to a Human Rights Commission complaint.
Landlords can, however, require tenant applicants to consent to a criminal background check before deciding whether to grant the tenancy.