GDPR in the Netherlands


The the majority of real estate firms in the Netherlands are unaware of the new wide-ranging EU data protection regulations (GDPR). This was the conclusion of a recent round table meeting held in Amsterdam, organised by Remit Consulting together with software company OSRE and Lexence Lawyers. The attendees suggested that the industry can become more GDPR-proof by creating awareness within real estate firms about GDPR and having an insight towards the management of personal data.

GDPR requires all companies to demonstrate that they have control over the personal data they process, starting from May 2018. However, as revealed by the attendees, it appears that many Real Estate organisations have a lot of catching up to do and are not adequately prepared. The average score for a question about whether the sector is GDPR-proof was only 4/10.

The most important bottleneck mentioned by the attendees is that the new privacy law is not directly in line with the interests of real estate companies. The know-your-customer culture in the real estate sector requires personal data (information) to serve customers better, improve business processes and reduce risks. Consequently, as many organisations are lacking the right mind-set and approach, it is difficult to embed the new legislation in organisations because its value is simply not being seen.

It’s becoming clear that to comply with the GDPR, organisations should begin by analysing the sense and nonsense factors behind collecting and recording information. Which data do you collect for what purpose? Who has access to the information? Can you explain this to your clients and is it in line with all aspects of GDPR? Such questions provide companies with necessary insight to their current processes, in addition to raising awareness about the privacy and protection of personal data within the organisation.

Several alternative solutions were also mentioned during the discussion, including:

  • Anonymising (pseudo) personal data, so that information is no longer traceable to an individual;
  • Encrypting, or encrypting data in so-called tokens, which ensures that personal information is unreadable during a data breach;
  • The use of technologies such as block chain, to (for example) encrypt and anonymize data, or verify data without saving it;
  • The conclusion of a good (and mandatory) processor agreement with parties that process data;
  • Working within one central system, in which the access of various cooperating parties to personal data is recorded. 

According to the attendees, data, and more specifically data analytics, will be at the forefront of the real estate sector throughout the coming decade. Yet currently, there is only a small focus on data amongst real estate organisations, which will change over the next few years as the technology market expands and companies become increasingly data driven. Real Estate firms need to be more aware and prepared for these forthcoming changes by transforming themselves into data processing and GDPR experts as soon as possible.

To find out more about GDPR, visit our Compliance page.

The robots aren’t coming to steal our jobs (yet)

You can’t move in the property industry these days without hearing that AI is going to steal all of our jobs. But aside from being a provocative statement to kick-start a networking session, how true is this?

The facilities management industry has been particularly blessed by the technology revolution; platform analytics provide business insight using mapping techniques, sensors, actuators and user interface apps to provide remote and automatic control. Even more futuristically, providers such as GeoSlam offer geospatial 3D mapping hardware and software that can scan buildings up to 20x faster than normal, while EnergyDeck has developed sensors, automated controls, data analytics and benchmarking to help users track and manage energy, environment and resource data. 

On the basis of these advances, new services and business models are likely to be emerging in the next few years offering fully traceable building management. With this end to end provisioning, the building will be telling you it needs replacing and not the other way around!

And yet, according to our REMark survey benchmarks, the number of facilities managers in the industry has increased over the last 3-4 years – a far cry from the expected reductions one may have predicted in a sector which is now benefitting from so many brilliant advancements in technology. What is going on?

Historically the FM industry has been a comfortable home for traditional service provision, with a mix of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ activities. And, until now, innovation has been concentrated on management systems development and data enabling packages to develop a more established view of efficiency opportunities. The focus, however, has now shifted towards building behaviours, reducing operation costs, and, excitingly, enhancement of occupant wellbeing and the value of space.

With the industry becoming more white-collar then, who are the new facilities managers? We anticipate the emergence of a hybrid role connecting Building managers with Asset managers, and combining elements of property management and FM. Indeed, this is already materialising in the Workplace manager position among corporate occupiers. 

Modern facilities management needs individuals who are comfortable with the new technologies, and continuing innovations (because this is just the beginning), who are also excellent at Front of House, because as anyone resistant to the AI revolution will correctly exclaim, ‘but clients want people!’. Few such individuals exist at the moment, so training is needed to cultivate these mythical FM-ers of the future! 

So, the robots aren’t coming to steal our jobs (yet), but technologies such as AI and augmented reality are on their way to change the industry. It would be very foolish to cast these technologies as adversaries, especially as strategy can survive anything except contact with the enemy. With this in mind, the future is bright for anyone who can understand data while being charming, helpful and efficient – which sounds like quite a nice job to have!

Who or What is Your Customer?

We hear that WeWork values the data about its occupiers more highly than the “rent” they pay. This follows the model established by the likes of Google who, initially, gave their search engine and email services away for free on the basis that we consent to letting them understand every aspect of our lives. 

In proptech, they say that "if you don't pay for a product, you are the product..." This implies that WeWork is planning to change the relationship between Landlord and Tenant far more than we have already seen; does WeWork have “Tenants”, “Customers”, or “Products”?

An increasing number of mainstream corporate landlords also insist, “We shall no longer refer to the people in our buildings as tenants; they are our customers, occupiers, retailers, brands or guests.” This transition is well-intentioned but can be confusing, particularly when building owners also have investors and other forms of customers to consider beside their tenants. 

So why do so many property companies insist on abandoning the term? The argument is the negative connotations of ‘tenant’, following the long, bitter history of landlord suppression that conversely led to legislation empowering tenants with onerous rights against landlords. 

As a landlord client of ours comments: “We refer to them as customers because the term tenant has a somewhat old fashioned, formal image. Whereas the term customer is more personal and implies that the level of customer service we need to provide is more important.” This implies more of a rebranding exercise, intended to change the perspective on how a tenant should be served.

‘Tenant’ is also a legal term and we mustn’t lose sight of the implications of renaming something referred to in legislation. Lessons can be learned from employment law, in which the terms ‘worker’ and ‘employee’ are often used synonymously in contracts and day to day dealings, but have, in the past, been viewed quite differently by the courts. 

Furthermore, the vagueness of the term ‘customer’ can sometimes muddy the waters;. for example, an owner’s customers could include their investors, shoppers or just visitors to a shopping centre. Would a more precise descriptive-word such as ‘lessee’ or ‘renter’ be a more appropriate substitute instead therefore? 

If our industry is intent on changing the way that tenants are perceived and managed, surely there are more effective methods of doing this than just introducing a new epithet. Training and improved tenant experience processes would be a great start.

Is it also possible that Landlords will come to value the services their Tenants can provide so highly that we’ll one day see free accommodation in return for their data?