‘Rate my tenant’ – what does your landlord know about you?
Did you know how landlords score you and why you should care? We caught up with Ian Barker, managing director of Tenant Information NZ (TINZ), to answer some frequently asked questions about your information, privacy, and rights, and how tenants can view their file.
Tell us about TINZ and how my landlord might use it?
TINZ is a tool developed for landlords to help landlords and property manager screen tenants. The search returns data from 15 different databases and uses verified data to automatically calculate a tenant risk score from 0 to 1,000. Landlords use the results to help decide who would be the best tenant for their property. If your score is low, so are your chances of landing the rental.
Where does the information come from?
Since it launched in 1998 TINZ has collected hundreds of thousands of Tenant Rating Reports from landlords and holds them for six years. In addition the TINZ algorithm looks at credit bureau data from illion (Credit Simple’s parent company). The report also gives landlords a variety of public information held on third-party websites. This includes government databases, insolvency information, Tenancy Tribunal hearings, court judgements, Companies Office records, Police Ten 7, Parole Board, Sensible Sentencing Trust, NZ Gazette and obituary results.
Why does a landlord need to know this information?
Landlords don’t want to delve into your private life. But they trust you with an asset worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and want to know you’ll look after it. They also need to know the rent will be paid so that they in turn can pay their mortgage at the end of the month. If you don’t pay the rent, the property is damaged or the neighbours start complaining, the landlord has a problem.
What about privacy?
If your landlord or property manager uses TINZ the tenancy application form will have a privacy statement asking your permission to make checks. You don’t need to agree to the search being done on you, but you might risk not getting the tenancy if you do this. Everyone has a right to see the report and correct any information. TINZ is committed to meeting all aspects of New Zealand’s Privacy Act. If you want to know what information is held about you on the TINZ database, use the tenant enquiry process on the TINZ website that anyone can use.
Can I see my score?
You can request TINZ to send you whatever is held on the TINZ database for free. And yes, you can see your score but the score algorithm brings in third-party data so that incurs a small cost. To take the free TINZ check-up you need to upload a copy of photo identification and fill in some identification details such as full name and date of birth. Your report will be returned within five business days.
TINZ's Ian Barker says tenants should check their own info and know what's held on file about them.
“It’s important to know what data about you is held on the internet. Tenants who go through this process sometimes find old debts they’d forgotten about, or they find debts associated with a former partner. Another common scenario is a black mark from debt that has been written off, which isn’t a good look.”
What about the publicly held data?
TINZ also allows individuals to search the third party databases used to produce the score, but not held by TINZ. It costs $17 plus GST to do this search. This report can be run instantly if you have a valid passport or driver’s license.
Why should I get my report?
It’s important to know what data about you is held on the internet. Tenants who go through this process sometimes find old debts they’d forgotten about, or they find debts associated with a former partner. Another common scenario is a black mark from debt that has been written off, which isn’t a good look. Despite the write-off this information remains on your credit file unless you pay off the debt and ask the credit provider to clear it.
What if there’s something wrong in my data?
If there is a problem with the data held by TINZ then you need to go through the tenant enquiry process to have it corrected in accordance with the Privacy Act. You’ll need to provide evidence that the information is incorrect. If the data comes from the third-party databases, you need to contact them directly to have the information corrected.
What if I’m not perfect?
You don’t have to be squeaky clean. Landlords know that most tenants have some sort of consumer debt. If, however, you appear to be up to your eyeballs with too many hire purchases accounts or other debt landlords might surmise that you may not have sufficient income to pay the rent.
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