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Agency fined for getting information about tenant illegally

Posted: 4th May 2012   In: Dispute Resolution

A letting agency has been fined for illegally obtaining information about tenants while chasing up rent arrears.

The offence took place in 2009 when the agency became concerned about overdue rent payments. One of its directors approached a local authority customer service adviser and asked him to obtain information about certain tenants from housing benefit records.

The adviser provided the information as requested.

The council began an investigation after receiving an anonymous tip-off that the adviser had been illegally accessing data. The case was then taken up by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The agency was fined £260 and ordered to pay £702 prosecution costs. One of its directors was also fined £260 and ordered to pay £351 prosecution costs. The adviser who provided the information was fined £690 and ordered to pay £351 prosecution costs.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said the fines were too lenient and called for tougher penalties. He said: “This case highlights the need for a more appropriate range of deterrent punishments to be made available to the courts. There must be no further delay in introducing tougher powers to enforce the Data Protection Act, otherwise unscrupulous individuals will continue to see a mere fine as a price worth paying.”

The ICO is calling for custodial sentences to be made available to courts to prevent the unlawful use of personal information.

Please contact Matthew Melling if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article.