Landlords Use Sensitive Personal Information to Spy on Tenants

Due to the economic hardship resulting from the coronavirus crisis, rent payments in New York are under a moratorium until August, with many other states implementing similar measures. However, with stimulus payments on the way for many Americans, some landlords have been using tenants’ personal information to check on their payments and collect rent anyway. This practice, while seemingly uncommon, is illegal, and constitutes a serious breach of a landlord’s duty towards their tenants.

As part of the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA), American citizens were issued a one-time payment of up to $1200 to help them cover necessities during the coronavirus quarantine. As part of this program, the IRS set up a website so American citizens can check on the status of their stimulus payment by inputting some basic information about themselves, including their name, address, and Social Security number. While the website has had difficulty dealing with the sheer number of people requesting their information, some have managed to successfully determine when their stimulus checks will arrive.

While this website is intended to allow individuals to check on their own status, some landlords eager to begin collecting rent again have used their tenant’s personal information to check on their stimulus status. They can do this because they collect their tenants’ personal information, including their Social Security number, during the application to rent their apartment. This means they can use that personal information to check their tenants’ stimulus status, and immediately begin harassing their tenants for rent once they know the stimulus check will be arriving.

However, any landlord who does this should be aware that it is illegal, with the IRS website noting that any “unauthorized use” of the IRS portal is against the law. Since these tenants did not consent to have their personal information used by their landlord, this would constitute an “unauthorized use,” with potential legal penalties against landlords who do so. Anyone whose landlord has engaged in this practice should consult with an attorney to determine their legal options.

If you are a tenant and your landlord is violating the terms of your lease or seeking to evict you, our Suffolk County tenant attorneys can ensure that your rights are protected. A New York landlord-tenant lawyer, who is experienced in handling landlord-tenant cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you or your loved is facing eviction or has suffered a violation of their property rights, contact the Suffolk County landlord-tenant attorneys at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702.

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