The ICO (Information Commisioner\u0027s Office)
The ICO – here’s why landlords need to make sure they’re registered
In May 2018, Europe’s new framework for data protection laws was introduced, known as General Data Protection Regulation (or more commonly just GDPR). This replaced the previous 1995 data protection directive and is enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
It meant some quite drastic changes to data protection in the UK, particularly in industries where lots of data is stored away and asked for on a frequent basis such as lettings. When GDPR was introduced, the UK was still part of the EU, but even now that Brexit has happened, the UK has its own domestic GDPR governing the protection of data, which works in tandem with the Data Protection Act of 2018 and PECR.
As landlords, you are legally obliged to register with the ICO to ensure you are compliant with data protection rules.
Regardless of how many homes you have, how many tenants you have, or how many people who work for you or you work with, it is the law that you must register with the ICO. The whole business must be registered. A landlord is considered to be a business, even if you are a sole trader with one property acting on an individual basis.
Some landlords may be of the mistaken belief that if their landlord is signed up, they don’t need to be. But this isn’t the case – your agent being registered doesn’t exempt you. Rather, anybody who holds and handles personal data and stores it electronically must register with the ICO. Personal data would include emails or texts sent to you by your tenant, for example.
How much does it cost and what about non-compliance?
The fee, paid yearly, is between £40 and £2,900, worked out depending on the size of the business and turnover. The ICO has a self-assessment questionnaire on its website, which will make it clear how much you will be charged.
Non-compliance could cost you plenty. If your tenants believe you are misusing or mishandling their data, they could raise complaints about you to the ICO, which acts as the UK’s data protection regulator. The ICO could choose to act on this complaint and investigate.
If you were to have your own complaints about tenants – for example unpaid rent or disputes over a deposit – the tenants could use your non-registration against you.
The fines for those who don’t register with the ICO and get found out can range from £400 to £4,350, so being compliant is vitally important.
Fortunately, the process of registering is very simple and will take only around 15-20 minutes. While your agent can remind you to register, they can not register on your behalf. You can register and pay your fee here.
The ICO will require the name and address of the business that needs to be registered, turnover and staff numbers, business details, and credit/debit card details. Once you’ve registered/paid, the fee will be due again in a year, so it might be simpler and easier to provide the ICO with direct debit details, so you don’t have to worry too much about it in the future.
You can find out more about paying a data protection fee, and any possible exemptions, by clicking here.
Working with an experienced, knowledgeable letting agent is key. They can remind you of your data protection responsibilities and the need to register with the ICO.
They will also help you with all other aspects of running a successful tenancy and remaining compliant at all times.
Here at LeGrys, we are an independent estate agency offering expertise and a wealth of experience across both residential sales and lettings.
With offices in the South East and the South West, we offer a number of services to help you let your home successfully. Each of our offices have experienced, friendly staff on hand to help and offer expert advice.