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Question

486. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been drawn to the vetting processes in place for first-time house buyers to arrange viewings which asks for proof of funds; her views on whether these practices are in keeping with GDPR legislation; if not, the steps she is taking to address the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32917/21]

491. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the underpinning passage of legislation that allows for the Property Services Regulatory Authority to advise estate agents to demand sight of a prospective house buyers exact funds rather than their mortgage approval when arranging viewings and or engaging in a bidding process for a property; and if her attention or that of her officials has been drawn to this practice (details supplied). [32884/21]

495. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Justice the plans she has to strengthen the regulation of estate agents and property management agents to ensure maximum transparency and accountability in the way they operate particularly with respect to information requests and bidding processes for home purchases. [33013/21]

Answer

Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I propose to take Questions Nos. 486, 491 and 495 together.
The Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA), is an independent statutory body with responsibility for licensing and regulating property services providers (PSPs) (auctioneers, estate agents, letting agents and property management agents) in the provision of property services. It monitors PSPs compliance in accordance with the provisions of the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011 and its associated Regulations.
There is no legislation in place that would allow the PRSA to advise estate agents to request sight of a prospective house buyers exact funds rather than their mortgage approval when arranging viewings or bidding on a property. There are no provisions in the 2011 Act or its associated Regulations relating to agents requesting personal or financial information.
Following on from the Government’s publication of the Plan for Living with Covid-19 and Department of Health and HSE Guidelines, the PSRA, in conjunction with IPAV, the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers and the SCSI, the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland published the guidance document ‘Property Services Providers Guidance to Implementing the Plan for Living with Covid 19’ to provide guidance to PSPs on how to safely manage business continuity during the Covid 19 pandemic. This document sets out measures to be taken at the different levels of the Government’s plan on Living with Covid-19. This guidance, approved by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, sets out at Level 4 and 5 of the Plan that viewings should only take place where proof of funds was available. This measure was advised to protect the health and safety of all parties and is no longer required as the restrictions in place have been reduced from level 5 to level 3 effective 10 May 2021. At no time where proof of funds was requested, was there a requirement for information on the amount of exact funds approved to be provided. The provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 continued to apply in the course of the provision of property services.
The GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 place obligations on data controllers including PSPs, to ensure that all of the principles of data protection law are complied with. I understand that the PSRA and the Data Protection Commission (DPC), which is an independent body established under the Data Protection Act 2018, have engaged on this issue and the DPC has issued targeted guidance in this area in recent days.
Furthermore, Section 61 of the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011, requires PSPs to retain a record of all offers received in respect of a sale of property other than by auction, for a period of not less than six years. The Minimum Standards Statutory Instrument which was commenced in November 2020, further strengthened the Regulations in relation to the recording of offers, where PSPs are now required to provide written confirmation to each offer or on receipt of an offer and a PSP is not permitted to express or imply to any person, that an offer on a property has been received, unless that offer has been received by the PSP. The PSRA has powers under the Act, to inspect such records as part of an investigation.