DPC to examine legality of estate agents collecting personal financial data

Privacy watchdog to issue guidelines after Savills sought ‘proof of funds’ to view houses

Savills denies it has breached data privacy laws by requesting the financial information and insists it is operating inside the current GDPR regulations on data privacy

Savills denies it has breached data privacy laws by requesting the financial information and insists it is operating inside the current GDPR regulations on data privacy

 

The Data Protection Commission (DPC) is planning to issue guidelines relating to the collection of personal financial data for the purpose of viewing properties.

Property firm Savills landed itself in hot water this week after it emerged it was asking people to provide “full proof of funds” just to view properties at a new housing development in west Dublin.

The DPC said it had contacted Savills to register its concern about the practice.

While a formal investigation has yet to be launched, the privacy watchdog said it was continuing to engage with Savills over the issue and was planning to issue guidelines in relation “to the practice of seeking personal data in the context of property viewings”.

The DPC is understood to be examining whether Savills had a legal basis to seek financial information from people wishing to view the properties.

Savills last week emailed people who had registered an interest in the new Somerton housing development in Lucan informing them that they would have to submit full proof of funds, including the full amount of their mortgage approval where applicable, if they wished to view the properties.

GDPR regulations

The company denies it has breached data privacy laws by requesting the financial information and insists it is operating inside the current GDPR regulations on data privacy.

It also claims that it cannot facilitate general open viewings because of the current Covid-19 regulations and that prices for homes in the new estate were set prior to the request for financial information.

However, Labour housing spokeswoman Rebecca Moynihan expressed concern about the practice.

“The practice of requiring excessive financial information for people to view properties is wrong and potentially a breach of data protection laws,” she said. “The purposes for requiring the information requested by Savills, including ‘full proof of funds’ is totally unclear, and I am concerned that this information may be used by Savills to compile a database of the average and maximum budgets of buyers,” she said.

‘Set prices’

“This is a really dangerous hole for us to go down, and the State authorities need to step in to ensure that we don’t see this information being used to set prices,” Ms Moynihan said.

“It is really disappointing for those hoping to get on the property ladder and a clear abuse of the power imbalance between buyers and estate agents,” she added.

Savills said it had received more than 5,000 expressions of interest linked to the Somerton estate, where 44 properties are due to come up for sale as part of the second phase of the scheme. The three- and four-bed units range in price from €395,000 to €565,000.