Data protection boss tells estate agents not to ask buyers for ‘proof of funds’

There is no justifiable reason as to why estate agents should be asking for excessive personal information from people wishing to view properties, Helen Dixon, the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) for Ireland has said.

Opposition politicians in Ireland asked Dixon to investigate after estate agents Savills recently asked potential buyers to show “proof of funds” before they can view any of the 44 houses for sale at the Somerton development in Lucan, Dublin.

Savills argued that its approach would reduce the numbers viewing the Somerton scheme physically in accordance with Covid-secure guidelines.

The Somerton

There were some 5,000 expressions of interest for the 44 three- and four-bed houses on sale as part of the latest phase.

This included not only the mortgage approval but also evidence of all savings that may be used in the purchase, proof of the Help to Buy Grant and evidence of gifts from family members if they were being used.

Other agents have reportedly engaged in similar practices.

But the DPC in Ireland has now published guidance on the collection of personal data prior to viewing a property.

The guidance says estate agents should collect no more personal information than is necessary.

The commissioner insisted that there cannot be justification for “extensive collection of personal data” even when complying with pandemic restrictions.

“The DPC does not consider there can be any justification for the extensive collection of personal data such as financial statements, proof of funds, utility bills, PPS numbers etc from prospective purchasers at the initial stages of advertising or hosting viewings of a property,” said Dixon.

Helen Dixon

Such personal data cannot be collected on a “‘just in case’ basis for some undefined or undeclared future purpose”.

Personal data should only be collected for “specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes”, she said.

The guidance also states: “The personal data required for the purpose of arranging a viewing will be significantly less than the personal data which may be necessary where an individual decides to progress to a more advanced stage of purchasing a property, such as placing an offer on a property, going sale agreed or concluding a purchase.”

When estate agents request personal data from viewers then they become “data controllers” under GDPR data protection laws.

This means they must engage in the principle of “data minimisation” and so collect no more information than is needed, according to the guidance.

 

Savills slammed for asking buyers for ‘proof of funds’ before viewings

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22 Comments

  1. Property Poke In The Eye

    I think all buyers should have an AIP direct from a lender or a letter from a Mortgage Advisor confirming how much a buyer can afford along with what solicitor they are using before a viewing is done.

    Before an offer is accepted proof of funds and ID is standard practice anyway.

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  2. AgencyInsider

    What nonsense. It is very clear that DPC has zero understanding of the situation with the property and does understand that the agent is arguably acting in its client’s best interest, as well as saving the time of no-hope, would-be buyers who don’t have sufficient funds. Besides, asking for sight of such information does not mean that the information will be retained by the agent.

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    1. Slinky

      There is a worrying lack of knowledge of GDPR couled with a lasse faire attitude to buyers in this statement. By requesting the documentation you become the data controller. If your suggesting that you have to go to the branch and show the documentation then trawl out to site for your viewing then you havent thought about your potential buyer, who in turn is a potential seller . 

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      1. Ric

        “If your suggesting that you have to go to the branch and show the documentation then trawl out to site for your viewing then you havent thought about your potential buyer, who in turn is a potential seller . “

         

        We had an instruction last month who chose us based on their son & daughter had viewed houses through us and LOVED the fact we vetted buyers. It’s not what you are asking for, it is HOW you are asking for it which tends to **** people off.

         

        The proof is directly related to the reason they are calling and the proof (should a seller want us to see it) is more than a fair request.

         

        But simply; see the proof, destroy the proof (if a physical copy).

         

        I think only the big corps or any company I suppose who leans heavily on staff to get mortgage leads etc need worry about what a team member might do with proof of funds. But if it is seen, destroyed, oh and noted as seen so the next time they call they are not having to go through it all again then most companies will have no issue with GDPR breaches as where is the breach? if the info seen was used exactly for the purpose in which it was asked for.

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        1. Slinky

          Lets not pretend we’ve found one attractive pig. The vast majority of times proof of funds are asked for en masse is to sell financial services. If your happy that your staff are following GDPR data minimisation by asking everyone for proof of funds and destroying them after then thats on you. If they arent and if they are taking notes of the particuarly well off with their addresses to sell to scammers then its your name with the ICO ….. the reason data minimisation exists is simply to reduce risk. Ignoring this becuase it works for you isnt a sensible long term stategy. 

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          1. Ric

            We don’t have a mortgage adviser to refer to! Genuinely ***** at it, so we just don’t bother. 
             
            Local MA/FS companies go crazy about us with the income we lose, but hey hoe, we’ve done ok for 30 years without it. So in our case I am VERY happy for the team to continue requesting POF and continuing to use the god awful loud annoying shredder sat in my office… Do I trust them? 1 billion percent or more with my life. 
             
            Joke but not joke: I would be well impressed if my staff were trying to cross sell mortgages… bleeding useless at it when I incentivise them to do it. Honestly absolutely *****. MAB gave up on us, amazed we just didnt care about the mortgages. To be honest, I would challange anyone to try and buy a mortgage through my lot… England have more chance of winning the Euros. 
             
             

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            1. scruffy

              You have my vote Ric !

              We take no referral fees from any other business and our clients love that we are both independent and that our staff were not amongst those agencies waving through viewers simply to keep the numbers up for such cross-selling.

              Can’t help but feel we’re in the minority though

               

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              1. Ric

                Haha I think we are… we always used to laugh in meetings, when we boasted once about a £2.97 referral commission from a mortgage lead we gave… earl-lay retirement bring it on.

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  3. Slinky

    How are they supposed to flog more mortgages if they have to abide by the law?? Its the nanny state gone mad. Its only banks statements, proof of funds, and identity checks. No-one could possibly think that the collection of that much personal data from a stranger could possibly go wrong or get into the wrong hands !!

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  4. Robert_May

    “There is no justifiable reason as to why estate agents should be asking for excessive personal information from people wishing to view properties”  other than case law precedent… take your pick on which one justifies an agent saving the client from excessive viewings  from people not in a position to proceed to completion

    Mx. Dixon might have a point if this was a data protection  matter but filtering out the tyre kickers, time wasters and those who  are seriously looking but have  no reasonable hope of their offer being accepted is not a data protection matter.

     

     

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    1. jjcelectrics@yahoo.com

      T he point is that anyone can set themselves up as an estate agent no qualifications required. Only a professional person such as a solicitor should ask for such personal details.

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      1. Burn red tape

        What utter nonsense, qualifications never man an honest man as those professionals in prison prove.

        Pray tell me what qualifications does a salesman/woman require?

        He/She needs to know his area, local housing stock and above all a knowledge and liking of people.

        I have never known a chartered surveyor like or want to sell houses he has always employed keen salesmen/women without qualifications to do so.

        Continue thinking as you are and you may just get me to believe a refuse collector requres qualifications!

         

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  5. John Murray

    Misleading heading. It is actually about asking for proof of funds before viewings being arranged.

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    1. jjcelectrics@yahoo.com

      More like gathering information for future use,

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  6. Andrew Stanton Proptech Real Estate Influencer

    Much better for the landlord or the vendor to have complete strangers view their property, after all the contract of business is only between the agent and the landlord or vendor, so why should agents be looking after their interests? Much better to look after the interests of parties who are not paying for the commercial services of an agent. Perfect example of where – software – can solve this problem with zero input from the agent, safeguarding all interests, including the buyer or tenant. You could even use blockchain, that way data held by no-one (and everyone).

     

    So Miss Smith says she wants to view, Blockchain says Smith all good to go, yet her data is not held by the agent, and she has not given intel that can ‘fall into the wrong hands’ – vendor / agent / landlord knows Miss Smith is a good egg. As a vendor and a landlord given the choice, prior to hoovering the cat prior to a viewing would I prefer to know exactly position of viewer – yes – even if it is – house to sell not on market – no finance in place – on Furlough. That at least is useful for all stakeholders, it does not prevent viewings – just makes everything transparent – which in the opaque world of real estate would be ground breaking.

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    1. Retiredandrelaxed

      “… hoovering the cat prior to a viewing…” that gave me a good laugh! I have a very vivid picture of that that is likely to go, given the reaction of my cats when the hoover emerges from it’s cupboard for it’s more common purpose of hoovering the carpets.

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  7. GeorgeHammond78

    Er, it’s a non-story – this occurred in the Republic of Ireland. Might as well be Kazakhstan.

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  8. Tackler

    The DPC are lunatics – 95% of the viewings we receive are from Walter Mitty time wasters, especially in lockdown who are bored and want to get out.

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  9. Russell121

    I find with the correct questioning you will normally weed out the timewasters. An AIP isn’t worth the paper its written on but it shows a level of affordability. I try to look at any potential viewer as a future customer and let the client decide, by putting them in the picture as to the applicants situation.

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  10. esoteric_agent

    So if you don’t check the buyer’s position financially and you take them to view the property and they then say they can’t or could never afford it you have then presumably fallen foul of the consumer protection regulations for wasting the Vendors time getting the property ready and the buyers time because they could never afford it in the first place.

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  11. Burn red tape

    Brexit will give us freedom from red tape said our Politicians forgetting for the past forty years the |EU have trained (by having them over for six months stays)  our civil servants in the black art of dictatorship.

     

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  12. jjcelectrics@yahoo.com

    This is sharp practice gathering information in order to sell products to potential unsuspecting people.This is one of the reasons  that estate agents have the reputation of being sharks.

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