The Welsh Liberal Democrats Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black has raised with the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty a letter sent to all its tenants by the Coastal Housing Group, that they will be sharing their rental payment history with credit reference agency, Experian.
Coastal Housing argue that this will enable tenants to create an online proof of identity and make it easier for them to open or change bank accounts and obtain more affordable credit. However, Mr. Black fears that it will put vulnerable tenants with a poor payment history in a difficult situation and drive them to pay day lenders. He has asked the Minister to clarify the Welsh Government’s attitude to this initiative and whether it believes that this is an appropriate use of personal data by a registered social landlord.
“Although the aims of this information sharing are laudable I have huge concerns that many tenants will be disadvantaged by it,” said Mr. Black. “Tenants have been invited to opt out if they do not want their rental payment data shared but the consequences of not doing so are not clearly set out in the letter.
“In addition, the emphasis on using Experian ratings to obtain affordable credit seems to work against the Welsh Government’s policy of encouraging low income families to access not-for-profit credit unions, with their lower interest rates and strong social imperatives. What advice are Coastal offering to vulnerable tenants, many of whom have never had a bank account, to manage this new world of affordable credit and credit ratings?
“To my knowledge, Coastal is the only housing association taking this initiative in Wales. In that regard they are leading the way. I would be happier though if this approach had been more widely discussed within the Housing Association movement and with Welsh Government officials so that all the pitfalls could be understood and worked through. It is surprising that the first the Minister knew of it was when I handed her a copy of the letter.”