Do Landlords Need To Register With The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office)?

Landlord ICO registration

Most landlords should probably register with the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) as part of their legal duties.

Under the Data Protection Act 1998, all organisations that process personal information must register with the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office).

In other words, any landlord that holds their tenants “personal information” and processes the data electronically, should register. For example, email address, telephone number, even name, I suppose.

However, the issue of landlords needing to register hasn’t always been universally agreed upon – I’ve seen industry experts squabble over it. But I’m going to explain why I believe it’s necessary for almost all landlords to register, and then you can make up your own mind…

Sound good? Perfect. Let’s go…

Table of contents

Who should register with the ICO (in theory)

If you currently or at some point stored, used or deleted tenant personal information (e.g. name, email, telephone, address etc.) on any electrical device (e.g. computer, phone or tablet etc.) – which is most likely everyone that isn’t a fossilised dinosaur – then it seemingly makes sense to register with the ICO. There are a few exemptions, but they are unlikely to apply to you.

Interestingly, the issue of landlords registering with the ICO became a prominent talking point when GDPR was introduced, which is why many believe it’s been required since then. But actually, registering with the ICO has always been required (or at least, before GDPR was a thing).

If you think that you don’t need to register (all the power to you) you can use this tool to discover if you’re exempt (which you probably won’t be).

Wait, what?! I’ve never heard of this!

Yup, I get it.

If it’s of any consolation, you’re probably within the majority.

I’m going to go out on a limb and make the bold claim that the legal requirement for landlords to register with the ICO is not only the most bizarre, but also the most unheard of, and therefore neglected.

But of course, ignorance of the law has never been a defence. I assure you, this is a real thing.

While we’re all frantically trying to deal with real issues, like gas safety, electrical safety, EPCs, and deposit registration, the requirement to register with the ICO seems to get literally no airtime whatsoever. Even by letting agents. It seems to be the runt of the family.

How Landlords can register with the ICO

It costs £35-40 per year to register (how much you pay will depend on the payment method; setting up a Direct Debit seems to be the cheapest). You can register here.

The registration process is pretty straightforward. When asked to select “Nature of work” from a predefined dropdown, I selected the following:

Landlord ICO Registration

Landlord ICO Registration

Is it a legal requirement for Landlords to register with the ICO?

I believe most landlords are required to register.

But it’s important that you understand I’m not offering legal advice here (least of all because I’m not qualified). However, I’m definitely able to explain to you why I think it’s necessary for almost all landlords to register, and then you can do your own due diligence and make up your own mind.

Fair enough? Cool.

Firstly, I think it’s very telling that there’s an option to select “Landlord” in the registration form when choosing “Nature of work”.

Secondly, most of us will meet the requirements of the Data Protection (Charges and Information) Regulations 2018 simply because many of us hold and/or process our tenants personal information:

Under the Data Protection (Charges and Information) Regulations 2018, individuals and organisations that process personal data need to pay a data protection fee to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), unless they are exempt.

That said, the issue of mandatory registration for landlords has been a contentious one – I’ve come across mixed views over the years:

  • Tessa Shepperson of Landlord Law says it’s required;
  • Adrian Thompson of GRL (Guild of Residential Landlords) also says it’s required by landlords;
  • The NRLA is in agreement, that “Landlords are required to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office.”;
  • however, this article on LandlordToday says it’s “unlikely” to be unnecessary for small scale landlords;
  • meanwhile, we also have a couple of super irate twits squabbling on LandlordReferencing’s forum (link has been removed, the forum no longer exists), absolutely refusing to believe it’s necessary (it’s quite an amusing read: the LandlordReferencing’s CEO, Paul, really seems to be getting bent out of shape about the whole ordeal).

So, who are we to believe?

I know which horses’ I’m backing.

But perhaps the following exchange puts the final nail in the coffin…

I contacted the ICO directly to get their view on the matter. I spoke to one of their ‘Registration Advisers’ (after being on hold for 40 minutes; they were experiencing high call volumes), and this is what the conversation went like:

I’m a private landlord, do I need to register?

Have you held or do you hold any personal information about your tenants on an electrical device, for example, tenancy applications, contact details, tenancy agreements?

I sure do!

You need to register then.

Ok, what if I only have everything on paper? (regardless of how unlikely that scenario is for a landlord in the 20th century, I asked the question out of curiosity)

If you have printed the documents yourself off an electrical device, then you need to register, even if they’ve since been deleted. That also applies for details held in emails.

If you only ever receive personal information about your tenants directly onto paper, then you don’t need to register.

Thank you. You’re cute.

Discussion over as far as I’m concerned.

So unless your name is Fred Flintstone, I think it’s safe to assume almost all landlords are required to register. But even if you’re still not a believer (for whatever reason), you may want to register just to err on the side of caution for the sake of £40’ish.

What’s even the point of landlords registering with the ICO?

*shrugs shoulders*

I’m just the messenger.

I honestly don’t know how it all works, I’ve just been blindly paying my registration fee for as long as I can remember, like a mindless drone. Ahh, the beauty of being an obedient slave in the system.

I think the idea is that if you’re abusive and/or irresponsible with your tenants personal information, they may come after you.

On the ICO website, there is a Action we’ve taken section, which highlights some of the monetary penalties, enforcement notices, undertakings, prosecutions and reprimands they have issued.

I’ve personally never heard of a private landlord being prosecuted, but I would not use that as a reason to side-step your legal obligations.

Yes, the whole thing seems kinda’ pointless, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Either way, I’ll leave it in your capable hands to decide what’s best for you.

Landlord out xo

10 Join the Conversation...

Guest Avatar
GriffMG 14th January, 2023 @ 13:08

I suspect the hasn't renewed their domain registration... now seem to be
a casino site...

WRT the ICO, we went through their self assessment it said we didn't need to register and they've just written saying we do... we have tried to argue that we don't, but will probably have no option but to pay.

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 14th January, 2023 @ 13:12

Ha, that's interesting. I remember having quite a big community, and their service seemed popular'ish. Surprised to see it's gone.


I've always been unsure about the requirement to register to ICO. As mentioned in the blog post, I reluctantly coughed up the doe "just in case"

Guest Avatar
Dean Pearce 21st September, 2023 @ 18:15

Is it law for landlords to be registered?

As I am having a torrid time with a 21st century Rigsby

Guest Avatar
Dee J 26th September, 2023 @ 10:23

I have been registered since 2018.I see no problem with it. In the greater scheme of things it is not expensive - and is tax deductible. The NRLA has a very simple form "Fair Processing Notice" in which you add in your details and can give to your tenants at the start of the tenancy. Its helps to set a good tone with tenants right from the start.
If you correctly reference tenants then you are going to have a lot of details about them so why not explain how you store them. If it was me I would want to know how my personal details were being stored and then when deleted/destroyed this being done appropriately.

Guest Avatar
gillian mclandlord 26th September, 2023 @ 10:41

I registered with ICO 5 years ago. They take the cash d/d every year. I also send a privacy policy to the tenants so they know I will pass their details on to trades/managing agent etc. It's another thing to do, but if not, as always you only need one malicious tenant.....

Guest Avatar
Dudley 26th September, 2023 @ 11:55

If you only keep your tenants' details for the purpose of keeping your own accounts and records to administer the properties they use, then you definitely do not have to register with the ICO. Even if you 'process' those details on your computer. Don't take my word for it - just use the ICO's own checking tool on their website. The fancy name for it these days is 'due diligence', ie. do your own homework.

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 26th September, 2023 @ 12:06

Hey @Dudley,

I completed the checking tool in a few different ways, and every time it said I needed to pay.

I'm not sure which answers you selected, but I don't know how you ended up with an exemption.

For question 2, did you answer no?

"Are you processing personal information?"

‘Processing’ is a very broad term which describes anything you can do with personal information, including (but not limited to):

erasing; and

‘Personal information’ means any detail about a living individual that can be used on its own, or with other data, to identify them.

In any case, I think most landlords will (or very easily could) somehow end up processing the information, even if they don't intentionally intend to.

It's really easy just to start processing personal information, for example, when arranging a plumber, and passing on the tenant's contacts details. Just really simple and every day things can crop up, so I personally don't see the point of not registering.

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 26th September, 2023 @ 13:33


"as always you only need one malicious tenant" - exactly my thoughts!

Guest Avatar
Dudley 27th September, 2023 @ 23:37

Pretty simple, really - the operative word is 'electronically', rather than 'processing'. My tenants have written tenancy agreements with me. I have a signed copy, the tenant has a signed copy. There's no need also to keep a copy on the computer, so I don't. What I do have on the computer, however, is a draft agreement. As this draft doesn't have tenants' details on it, it's not an 'agreement' in itself, because I am the only person detailed on it. For a new tenancy, the draft is called up, details such as rent payable, address and date inserted and it's then printed out twice. At this stage, there is still no tenant information on the document, so it's still not an agreement and I have not processed a tenant's details. The tenant's name is then inserted manually, along with his phone number, and we both sign each other's copy. I am now holding (processing) my tenant's information, but not electronically and at no stage have the tenant's details appeared on any electronic device. If I need to contact the tenant, I can write him a letter - often the case - or phone him. Email communication is expressly forbidden under the terms of the agreement, so I'll never get his email address, or he mine. This might sound complicated, but in practice it's perfectly simple and works well. Work through the ICO checker again with this in mind and you'll find you're exempt.

By the way, have you perused the benefits this bunch of bureaucrats see fit to award themselves? Here it is: Check out the pension scheme!

The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 28th September, 2023 @ 09:11


Sure, your explanation sounds simple, as in, you don't process any of your tenants details electronically.

However, in my opinion, that just seems very impractical and I'd say you're in a minority of self-managing landlords. I always communicate with my tenants via messages/emails because it's quicker and creates an instant digital footprint that can be recalled if needs be. Using snail mail and phone calls seems archaic to me, not only does it require more effort, but it's also lot harder to capture any proof.

In any case, if it works for you, fair play.

















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