New regulations contained in the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act which became effective on 1 July 2020 have raised eyebrows after tenants residing in private complexes have been told to ensure that record-keeping systems are compliant by making private information freely available to body corporates trustees.
The regulations insist that community housing schemes submit the information on their tenants by no later than 31 June 2021.
POPI Act permits collection of personal information by body corporates
Speaking to CapeTalk on Monday 6 October, Andrew Schaefer – the managing director of national property management company Trafalgar – said that while body cooperates and managing agents are within their right in terms of the act to collect personal information from residents and visitors, this information must be strictly audited and used solely for the purposes of compliance.
He said that questions have been raised by concerned residents as to what their data will be used for, and where it might end up.
“People want to know what kind of personal information is on record, what that information is required, how it’s being processed and utilised and what role they have in terms of controlling those areas,” he said.
As a visitor to a complex, he said that names, ID numbers, contact details, and even biometric data is often required to gain access, and that all of this information is permissible for managing operators and body cooperates to collect.
“I think all the owners need to decide what they choose in terms of their own security procedures and standards, and that will need to be adopted in terms of approved conduct rules. Those need to be transparent and people need to be aware of what has been approved and agreed.”
Right to privacy questioned
In terms of one’s right to privacy as is provided for by the Constitution, Schaefer said that offering one’s private information in this context should not cause alarm, as the systems and procedures will be strictly monitored.
“The necessary systems need to be in place to insure that the information that is collected is collected responsibly, that it is secure, backed up, and is not publicly accessible or used for purposes for which it was not collected in the first place,” he said.
“The trustees and directors are ultimately accountable, but the managing agents as the operator utilising that information for necessary processes… would be required to make sure that their systems are complaint and are meeting the necessary standards of security.”
Residents concerned by cost implications
Many residents may be concerned that the uniform compliance regulations will mean that they are forced to pay more in terms of levees for security upgrades and other necessary upgrades, but Schaefer said that these improvements would only serve their best interests, and are probably already in place.
“I’d like to think that many electronic systems are reasonably secure and backed up and protected by firewalls and anti-virus systems,” he said. “So I would have thought that most experienced managing directors and agents would have such systems in place.”
He said that the information would be used to ensure that body corporates, directors and managing agents such as Trafalgar are able to:
- Send levy accounts and statements to the correct people;
- Allocate payments correctly;
- Send out communications about the annual budget, the AGM and other body corporate or HOA meetings;
- Facilitate communications with owners and tenants regarding security issues or in an emergency such as the recent COVID-19 lockdown; and
- Take swift action in the event of levy defaults.