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The complainant alleged that a real estate agent's employee entered the complainant's flat and took photographs. The employee had earlier left a note on the door asking the occupants to contact the agency. The note did not indicate any intention to inspect the premises. The real estate agent, who was the owner's property manager, said the photographs were taken to support an allegation of a breach the Residential Tenancies Act. This breach was never taken to the Tenancy Tribunal. The photographs were then used in proceedings before the Tenancy Tribunal in a later, allegedly unconnected, dispute.

The agent had not complied with the requirements of section 48 of the Residential Tenancies Act and had therefore entered the premises unlawfully. In my opinion taking the photographs in these circumstances was a collection of information by means which were unlawful.

I found that the real estate agent had breached principle 4 which provides that personal information must not be collected by unlawful means. The complainant had suffered significant humiliation as a result of the agent's action.

I considered that this action amounted to an interference with the complainant's privacy.

The respondent was invited to make a financial settlement, but declined to do so.

Section 79 does not allow breaches of principle 4 to be taken to the Complaints Review Tribunal during the transitional phase of the Act (to 30 June 1996)

November 1995

Collecting personal information - Real estate agent - Collection by unlawful means - Real estate agent representing landlord - Took photographs while unlawfully on complainant's premises - Residential Tenancies Act 1986, s 48 - Information privacy principle 4(a).