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Lettings agents risking legal action, warns ICO

Posted on 2011-04-11

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is concerned that some lettings and estate agents are failing to notify the privacy watchdog that they are handling people’s personal information.

It is a legal requirement under the Data Protection Act (DPA) for all organisations handling personal information to notify the ICO. As property agents routinely process personal data, such as financial information, the ICO is warning thatthe vast majority would be subject to the DPA and need to notify the ICO as a matter of urgency.

Currently only 3,734 estate agents and 1,416 lettings agents appear on the public register, which makes up a small proportion of the industry. The ICO has written to a number of professional bodies, including the National Association of Estate Agents, the Association of Residential Lettings Agents and the National Federation of Property Professionals, to urge them to encourage their members to notify.

Mick Gorrill, Head of Enforcement at the ICO, said: “We want to work with the industry to ensure all property agents meet the legal requirement to notify us that they are processing personal information. A targeted approach working with stakeholders and membership bodies has proved highly successful in other sectors. We will be writing to organisations providing them with advice and encouragement to notify.

“However, if that encouragement is ignored, we will take action against those who flout the law. The message is very clear –notify with the ICO or face regulatory action.”

In 2009/10 there was a 15% increase in notifications. The ICO saw a surge in notifications among private doctors and solicitors following targeted campaigns. In the same period the ICO successfully prosecuted seven organisations and individuals for failing to notify. The fee for the majority of organisations remains £35.

Advice and guidance on how organisations can register with the ICO can be found here:
http://www.ico.gov.uk/what_we_cover/data_protection/notification.aspx

The public register of data controllers can be accessed here:
http://www.ico.gov.uk/tools_and_resources/register_of_datacontrollers.aspx

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