Saturday, October 15, 2011
Your home’s sale price is private information
This is what privacy legislation is all about — protecting your personal information. The lesson is that if you do not want to see your home’s sale price advertised after closing, then don’t agree to it.
In another case decided in 2006, an insurance company arranged for photographs to be taken of an apartment unit, without the tenant’s permission. The purpose was to get examples of the state of repairs of the interior of the apartments to assist in figuring out the building’s value. However, the pictures included some of the apartment’s contents.
The Privacy Commissioner’s office found that while the purpose might have been to show the condition of the unit, it also revealed information about the tenant, including their standard of living, whether they could afford expensive media equipment, whether they loved music or art or cooking. This was found to be personal information and thus permission should have been requested.
What this means is that before a buyer or agent takes photographs of anything inside a seller’s home, even during an open house or home inspection, they should ask for permission.
In another case decided in 2008, a consumer asked their bank for a copy of the appraisal report the bank had done on their home. An appraisal contains information about other comparable property sales in your area that help the appraiser calculate the value of your property. The bank refused, claiming this was confidential commercial information and not personal information.
The Privacy Commissioner’s office decided that, while the consumer was entitled to the appraisal value of their own home, they were not entitled to the name or contact information of the appraiser, or anything related to comparable property sales, as this was the personal information of third parties.
The issue of privacy arises in the ongoing lawsuit between the Competition Bureau and the Toronto Real Estate Board, something I’ve written about in the past few months.
The Competition Commissioner wants Canadians to be able to go online and access the selling price of any home in Canada. The potential abuses are huge, starting with thieves who want to learn about potential victims and their lifestyle. Since buyers and sellers didn’t provide this permission, in my opinion, it violates privacy legislation.
It seems to me the Privacy Commissioner should be involved in these proceedings and I encourage all Canadians to complain to the Privacy Commissioner’s office in Ottawa and to federal Industry Minister Christian Paradis. To register a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner’s office, you can download a form from their website, www.priv.gc.ca, sign it and then send it in. You can email Paradis’ office at firstname.lastname@example.org.