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My would-be landlord asked me for a work reference before I moved in and I gave him my line manager's contact details. My references were checked and I moved in. A month or so later my landlord emailed my line manager to ask a question that had nothing to do with the referencing process. The question had nothing to do with me either, it was a general question about the company. My landlord made no comment about having any connection with me when asking the question.

I told my landlord that this was an improper use of my line manager's contact details and asked him to not contact him again for private matters. My landlord argues that I should have specified that he couldn't contact my manager. This feels wrong to me as it was implied that the contact details were shared as part of and only for the referencing process.

What does the law say? This is taking place in the UK.

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The Immigration Act 2016 introduced the so-called 'right to rent' provisions under which a landlord can be prosecuted for renting accommodation to someone who is not legally in the UK. Everyone in the UK, Brits included, is subject to the Act.

This gives the landlord the right to examine your work permit and to see if your visa is valid. The landlord will make a copy of the information. This makes the landlord a data controller which imposes restrictions on how the information can be used.

Because this became controversial, the Information Commissioner published a brochure on the things a landlord can do with your data.

All things considered and based upon what you wrote, if the landlord did not get your permission to use the data, then it's likely he is in breach. But this does not mean it's actionable or that it would be advisable to make a formal complaint to the Commissioner. If you want to pursue it, you can use the Commissioner's "Report a Concern" page as a starting point. Alternatively, you can lodge a formal complaint with your landlord and he will have to respond to it.

What does the law say?

The act giving the landlord the right to access your data is in the 2016 act linked above. Everything else is in the Data Protection Act 1998.

The ILPA Information Sheet is at "Right to Rent". "The information sheet was updated on 01 November 2016 to take account of the second commencement order issued by the government, on 31 October 2016, bringing further provisions into force." The information sheet is recommended reading for anyone in the UK on a work permit. Disclaimer: I'm a member.

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    All of that is irrelevant as the landlord didn't use personal information about the person asking the question, or use information in a way pertinent to that person in any manner. Someone else's phone number is not the personal information of the person providing it. – ohwilleke Sep 5 '17 at 15:52
  • I am a British citizen (legally in the UK and I do not require a visa or work permit). I am not thinking about complaining or take any action. I am trying to understand if the landlord's behaviour was acceptable or not. Thanks for your reply. – Jelefra Sep 5 '17 at 20:08
  • @Jelefra I am too. I have had Vodafone spanked for making marketing calls and sending offers without permission. But if you're question is one of curiosity you have the links to be able to follow up and make further research. – Gayot Fow Sep 5 '17 at 20:30
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A month or so later my landlord emailed my line manager to ask a question that had nothing to do with the referencing process. The question had nothing to do with me either, it was a general question about the company. My landlord made no comment about having any connection with me when asking the question.

There is nothing improper about this conduct. The fact that you happen to introduce someone to someone else doesn't give you veto power over all of their future communications with that person. The discussion has nothing to do with you and is no different from that landlord having looked up that person's name in a directory.

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    The discussion [...] is no different from that landlord having looked up that person's name in a directory. Does it make a difference that my manager's email address isn't available publicly? The discussion has nothing to do with you Even though the contact would not have happened without me? My manager was annoyed by this unsolicited and personal contact and this has had a slight negative impact on me. – Jelefra Sep 5 '17 at 20:17
  • @Jelefra It doesn't make a difference. It isn't your information. In the same vein, suppose that your landlord asked your manager out for a movie and dinner date. You couldn't object to that simply because you happened to cause them to be acquainted. – ohwilleke Sep 5 '17 at 20:47
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My would-be landlord collected data to decide whether or not to enter in a commercial agreement with me and as such he is subject to the Data Protection Act.

By contacting my employer for purposes other than the reference check, my landlord breached several data protection principles as described by the Information Commissioner’s Office:

  • Be transparent about how you intend to use the data, and give individuals appropriate privacy notices when collecting their personal data (Principle 1: fair and lawful)

  • Handle people’s personal data only in ways they would reasonably expect (Principle 1: fair and lawful)

  • Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes (Principle 2: purposes)

  • Personal data processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes (Principle 5: retention)

As such my landlord's behaviour is against the law.

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