When it comes to renting their property, some owners are tempted to find out about their future tenant. On social networks, blacklists of alleged bad payers have been emerging for several months in Facebook groups. L’Oeil du 20h investigated these illegal and widespread practices even in real estate agencies.
On Facebook, we have infiltrated several private groups, in which dlandlords or owners who claim to be “victims of non-payment”, “angry”, and some of whom display their intention of drawing up “black lists”.
From the home page, there are comments containing the names of presumed bad tenants, sometimes with dates of birth or even photos. Some organize what is akin to filing in discussions by geographical areas. “Mr. Y. in Nice, false papers, 3 years to dislodge him” can be read in the list dedicated to the Côte d’Azur. “Mr. V. left me a slate of nearly 3,000 euros in unpaid bills in Lannion. Last I heard, he was living in Corsica.” comments another in a group dedicated to Brittany.
This personal information is accessible to anyone, with a few clicks, and hosted in groups, some of which have up to 8,500 members. Among them, sometimes, real estate professionals that we have been able to identify.
Do these agents use this private information in the course of their activity? This is what we wanted to verify with a hidden camera, in a real estate agency in the Paris region. We present ourselves as owners of a property for rent, wishing to obtain guarantees to avoid unpaid rentals.
The real estate agent who receives us warns us: unpaid bills exist but “we protect ourselves as much as possible upstream”. Asked about the existence of lists dedicated to bad payers, he confirmed their existence.
“There are blacklists, of course! Tenants who are blacklisted… We exchange information between us (real estate professionals). And we actually have plenty of groups that allow us to check”A real estate agent, on hidden camera
This practice is illegal. The CNIL reminds that this filing is contrary to the Data Protection Act. Contacted for its part, the National Federation of Real Estate condemns these methods which flout the code of ethics of the profession of real estate agents.
We were able to reach two former tenants by telephone, whose identity we will preserve. We learn from the first that he is on file, for late payments. “I still have a micro business, ‘I still have an image, it’s degrading to have a name on a site, like that’, he regrets.
Another tenant claims that she did not pay a month’s rent due to personal difficulties. She wonders today if this filing would not have played against her when looking for another apartment. “When we visited an apartment, the real estate agent told us that it was ok, and when we sent all the documents, we were told “finally no, the owner has changed his mind”. I don’t know if it’s related to that…”.
In Nice, we found one of the administrators of one of these Facebook groups. Nicolas Molders is a former owner. He sold his property after 6 years of proceedings against two former tenants. “I got rid of it because I was exhausted by these years of lawsuits, and especially to repay my creditors. Between legal costs and rental arrears, I no longer had a choice.” he explains.
The Facebook group he manages today has more than 1,600 members. He says he invests in it to prevent others “from having the same bad experiences”. He also assumes the risk of disclosing this type of personal information.
“It’s true that these names that are wandering around are borderline legal, but they’re not harassment campaigns either. We just want to know if anyone has already had dealings, in bad , to such and such a person, before choosing a tenant.”
Nicolas Molders, administrator of a Facebook group
An “inaudible” speech for the National Housing Confederation, which speaks of “denouncement” and defamatory practices. The association recalls that the average rate of unpaid bills in France is 3% and that there are legal remedies for owners.
“These are practices from another time… This shocks us! A registered tenant is a tenant who, all his life, will have difficulty finding housing. This is discrimination!”Eddie Jacquemart, National President of the CNL
The association for the defense of tenants says it is considering legal action. The CNIL recently received a report targeting one of these groups, which is still active today… even if Facebook assures us that it is carrying out checks.