Apex to photograph all housing tenants

A letter sent by Apex Housing Association to one of its tenants in Derry.
A letter sent by Apex Housing Association to one of its tenants in Derry.

Apex Housing Association (Apex) is seeking to take photographs of all its current and future tenants.

The ‘Journal’ has obtained a copy of a letter sent by Apex to a tenant in Derry.

The letter contains details on when the photograph is scheduled to be taken, a document explaining why Apex believe the photograph needs to be taken and a consent form.

One elderly Apex tenant told the ‘Journal’ that he was shocked when he received the letter and saw it as an “invasion” of his privacy.

“I understand that tenancy fraud is a problem but this is a step too far -it’s a real invasion of our privacy,” he said.

“Years ago, when I became an Apex tenant I had to provide a copy of my passport and birth certificate - I just don’t know why they [Apex] need to send a stranger out to my and other people’s homes to take photographs of them.

“There are vulnerable, elderly and disabled people out there. A letter like this will be extremely distressing to them. There’s a consent form in the letter but I dread to think what they [Apex] will do to tenants like me who refuse to sign it,” added the tenant.

In the letter, tenants are told what the photograph will be used for and what kind of photograph is needed.

Tenants, who consent, could have their photograph taken by an Apex member of staff using a mobile phone and they add that they may ask the tenant to update their photograph every five years.

An Apex Housing Association spokesperson told the ‘Journal’ it is seeking to photograph tenants because of high levels of tenancy fraud in Derry.

“Following recommendations made by the Northern Ireland Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee, the Department for Social Development requires all housing associations in Northern Ireland and the Housing Executive to take action to address tenancy fraud,” the spokesperson said.

“The Northern Ireland Audit Office Report (2013) recommended the introduction of photographic ID.

“Apex, along with colleagues in the housing sector, is seeking to meet this recommendation but only where tenants give their consent,” the spokesperson added.