Vancouver strata ordered to stop collecting personal information from overnight guests

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      A tribunal has directed a Vancouver strata corporation to refrain from gathering “sensitive” personal information from overnight guests.

      The order was made by Eric Regehr, a member of the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal, in a dispute involving two residents and the strata of the high-rise condominium building.

      In his reasons for decision, Regehr related that until September 2019, overnight guests were required through a registration bylaw to fill out a temporary resident information form or TRIF.

      The form collected the following information: visitor’s name, suite the guest is visiting, whether the visitor is a ‘tenant’ or ‘guest’, duration of stay, visitor’s telephone number and email address, key fob to be used,whether the visitor will access shared facilities, make and license plate of the visitor’s car, parking stall they will use, and visitor’s emergency contact name and telephone number.

      “The visitor also had to provide a copy of photo identification, which was attached to the TRIF,” Regehr recalled.

      The TRIF was amended in September 2019, and now requires the name and signature of the strata resident, but no longer asks for an emergency contact.  

      An earlier version of the guest registration bylaw was first approved in a 2014 annual general meeting.

      This 2014 bylaw required all guests staying more than a week to sign a Waterford Temporary Occupant Form, which presumably bears the Waterford name of the condominium development.

      In 2019, residents Peter Wong and Linda Wong had overnight guests, and the visitors did not fill out a TRIF.

      Because of this, the Wongs were fined $350 by the strata.

      The Wongs questioned by the guest registration bylaw before the tribunal, arguing that it contravenes the Personal Information Protection Act or PIPA.

      For its part, the strata reasoned that it has two goals in requiring visitors to fill out the TRIF.

      One is to enforce the strata’s prohibition against short-term rentals.

      The other is safety and security.

      Regehr recalled that according to a strata president’s report at a 2018 annual general meeting, a tenant was “using Airbnb to operate a ‘brothel’ in a strata lot”.

      “In this dispute, the strata says that it was able to help 2 owners evict tenants based on information in the TRIF, including the owner of the strata lot with an alleged brothel,” Regehr related.

      According to Regehr, the Wongs argued that the guest registration bylaw is a violation of section 11 of PIPA, which states that an organization, such as a strata corporation, “may only collect personal information for purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate in the circumstances”.

      Regehr stated that the legal test to be applied in this dispute is that the strata “can only collect and use personal information if a reasonable person would consider it appropriate in the circumstances”.

      “A reasonable person expects that the strata would collect as little personal information as possible to achieve its stated goals considering the sensitivity of the personal information,” Regehr noted.

      The tribunal member noted that in this dispute, the strata “collects a range of personal information from relatively mundane information, like a name, to highly sensitive information, like a copy of photo identification”.

      Regehr also wrote that the strata did not provide evidence whether it tried “other, less intrusive methods of enforcing its bylaws, such as by tracking down offenders on vacation rental sites like Airbnb”.

      “As for safety and security, most of the strata’s arguments are based on assumptions or hypothetical situations,” Regehr stated. “The alleged brothel is the only safety or security issue that the strata identified related to short-term rentals or overnight guests, which I find could have been solved without the TRIF.”

      Regehr also ordered the cancellation of the fines slapped on the Wongs.