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Landlords need to know how to process and store a tenant's (or prospective tenant's) information or they could find themselves falling foul of the law as enshrined in the Data Protection Act 1998. Here's a basic guide to what you should (and should not) do. Luckily it seems whoever drafted this part of the legislation exercised a good amount of common sense.
Personal information given to you by a tenant/prospective tenant (for example copies of their ID held by you for verification purposes) is their property and so should be destroyed once it's purpose has been served. In practise this means when the tenancy has ended and you're happy you won't need to pursue the tenant for any reason, or for a prospective tenant that didn't make the grade for some reason you need to destroy the information once you've decided not to let to them.
You are allowed to pass the tenant's information to 3rd parties under certain circumstances. Some examples are:
- Informing utility companies of a change of occupant
- Giving forwarding addresses of departed tenants to utility companies
- Discussing a housing benefit or council tax account with a local authority
- When instructing a tracing agent or a debt collector
- As part of a court claim
- When sending a tradesman round to make a repair