The UK has been part of an overall data protection regime which embraces the entirety of the European Economic Area – the EEA consists of the member states of the European Union along with the three countries of the European Free Trade Association, which are Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
David Smith, partner at JMW Solicitors, says that if a consequence of Brexit the UK also leaves the EEA, then businesses which process the personal data of EEA nationals – which may well include estate and lettings agencies – will no longer be able to do so easily.
“For agents who have clients or third parties such as tenants or property buyers coming from elsewhere in the EEA the obligations will be a little different” says Smith.
“Firstly, they will need to comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). Of course, as the UK is currently within the GDPR all agents should already be GDPR compliant and this will not be a significant burden initially. However, the Prime Minister has already suggested the UK will create its own data protection regime and so it is possible agents will find themselves having to comply with a UK regime as well as GDPR” he adds.
Smith goes on to say that compliance with GDPR imposes “an absolute requirement on business to have a representative within the EEA if they are processing personal data from EEA nationals.”
Consequently, he says that this means if a UK estate or letting agency is processing personal data from people such as buyers or landlords in any EEA country, they must either have an office in an EEA country or have entered into a relationship with a person or organisation established in the EEA to represent them for the purposes of the GDPR.
Smith says it is still possible that this issue could be resolved in the discussions to sort out the details of the Brexit deal.
There may be a resolution of this problem in the weeks and months to come. However, it is possible that such a resolution may not be reached.
Therefore Smith advises that “it would be sensible for agents, especially those with substantial EEA client bases, to take steps to prepare for this now.”