Landlords need to collect confidential information from their tenants in order to determine whether or not they qualify for a lease. A tenant’s employer, bank account numbers, credit history, social security number and previous addresses are all valuable to identity thieves.
In addition to credit information, landlords often know a great deal of personal information about their tenants—often, more than they really need to, including marital status, job situation, housekeeping habits and sexual orientation. It might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a landlord’s responsibility to keep every tenant’s personal and credit information protected.
In most states, in fact, it is illegal for landlords to release any financial information about a tenant or prospective tenant to a third party without written consent. And as it becomes more prevalent, a landlord should take extra precautions to protect tenants from identity theft.
How to Keep Tenant Information Confidential
- Keep all tenant records under lock and key. If you have a property manager, decide whether they need access to confidential tenant information.
- Protect computerized tenant files as closely as you protect your online banking sites. If you don’t have a password on your computer, you should at least have confidential files password-protected. Change your passwords often.
- Don’t talk about tenants to other tenants. It’s too easy to fall into the habit of gossiping, and before you know it—you’ve disclosed confidential information. Talking about tenants is unprofessional and could land you in hot water.
- If your office is accessible to others, take care when working on tenant files. Don’t leave lease applications or credit reports where they can be seen by anyone.
- When transporting files from one place to another, consider a locking briefcase. It’s one more layer of protection for sensitive information.
Remember, as a landlord, you are privy to personal—and potentially harmful—information about your tenants. It’s a big responsibility to keep it safe and to maintain confidentiality—but it’s part of your job.