Phil Querin Q&A: Government Agency Asks Community Owner for Information Regarding Resident's Information

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March 7, 2014

Question: The Clackamas County tax assessor just called seeking a list of the tenants and their mailing addresses in my park. The purpose is to track down people who might be late on taxes as they are getting returned mail. Apparently they have called 15 park owners so far seeking this information. I do not know if I am violating any confidentiality or privacy rights of my tenants by providing such information. Please let me know if it is OK to send them the information. Park owners and members of MHCO in the county might have the same question. Thank you.

Answer: Here is § 805(b) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act regarding communication in connection with debt collection. The following activity is prohibited: "Communication with third parties. Subject to limited exceptions, without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector, or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, or as reasonably necessary to effectuate a post-judgment judicial remedy, a debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than a consumer, his attorney, a consumer reporting agency if otherwise permitted by law, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector." The Take-Away: This law, when coupled with the general expectation of privacy that residents have, it is my opinion that a landlord should never be in the position of voluntarily disseminating personal contact information to potential creditors, or any other people for that matter – unless the tenant consents in advance. If the debt collector issues a subpoena, that’s another story. But until they do, landlords should avoid voluntarily complying with requests for personal information on residents. This applies regardless of whether the third party is a debt collector.