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

Landlord ICO registration

The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) is an independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals (yeah, it all sounds like a bunch of tosh to me, too. But that’s besides the point!). Under the Data Protection Act 1998, all organisations that process personal information must register with the ICO.

In short, that means any landlord that processes “personal information” of their tenants, should register.

However, the requirement for landlords to register appears to be a bit of a controversial and sore subject. But I’m going to explain why I think 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 seemingly makes sense to register with the ICO. There are a few exemptions, but they probably won’t apply to you.

Funny thing is, the issue of landlords registering with the ICO only really became a notable talking point when GDPR was being introduced – many folk presumed registering was part of GDPR compliance for landlords. But that’s actually not true – registering with the ICO has always been required. However, since GDPR was largely focused on data protection and transparency, it’s easy to understand how folk got confused.

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). You can register here or if you’re adamant on fighting the cost (all the power to you) you can use this tool to discover if you’re exempt (which you probably won’t be).

The process is pretty straightforward, but I did get slightly confused by the “Sector” section of the application. Nothing really screamed “Landlord”, so I contacted ICO for guidance, and they advised me to select the following options:

ICO Registration

ICO Registration, “Sector” options recommended for private landlords.

Yup, yup, yup. I know you’re not a letting agent, but they’re still the recommended options, so I’m told!

Helpful? Hope so, because I was on hold for fifty-five painstaking minutes in total.

Is registering really necessary for Landlords?

I believe so based on everything I read from the ICO itself, and qualified professionals in the industry.

However, as said, the issue of mandatory registration for landlords seems to be a contentious one.

So, who are we to believe?

I know which horses I’m backing, and it ain’t the willy-flaunter! I’m going with the Associations and the legal mind (e.g. Adrian Thompson and Tessa Shepperson).

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

I contacted the ICO (yet again) 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.

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.

I will say this though, I’m not aware of any case where a landlord has been prosecuted for failing to register, and the whole thing seems kinda’ silly and pointless. Make of that what you will.

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

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