Tenancy databases

Tenancy databases may be used by lessors as a way of screening prospective tenants.

Lessors can look in tenancy databases to help them select tenants. If they do they must let prospective tenants know in writing which database they use and if they find any information in it about any of the applicants.

The Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (the Act) sets out who, when, and why a person can be listed in a tenancy database. The Act also enables disputes over proposed and existing listings to be resolved.

If you believe an agent or lessor/property manager has listed information about you that is incorrect, out of-date or unjust, there are ways you can go about having the information removed or amended.

What is a tenancy database?

Tenancy databases are run by private companies, not by the Government. They collect and hold information about tenants and can only be used by members (usually real estate agents) who pay membership fees.

Members can list tenants on the database for certain reasons and can check the database to see if a prospective tenant has been listed by another member. There are a number of tenancy databases which operate, including:

• TICA (Tenancy Information Centre of Australia)

• NTD (National Tenancy Database)

Tenancy databases are sometimes referred to as 'blacklists' or 'bad tenant databases'. Files kept by an individual lessor/property manager or agency for their own internal use (hard copy or computerised) are not considered databases under the Act.

When can a tenant be listed on a database?

Tenants can only be listed on a database:

  • if they are named on the tenancy agreement as a tenant. Approved or unapproved occupants, visitors or children cannot be listed;
  • if the tenancy has ended – tenants cannot be listed on a database simply because they fall behind with the rent, or aren’t looking after the property in a satisfactory way; and
  • for one or both of the following two reasons: 
    • they have vacated for a breach of the agreement, owe more than the security bond and the amount owed is still outstanding at the time of listing; or 
    • a Court has made an order terminating the agreement because of something the tenant has done wrong.

Any information recorded on a database must identify the reason for the listing in an accurate, complete and unambiguous way, such as, ‘eviction order given on grounds of rent arrears, tenant owes $500 in rent above the bond'.

Using the database

If the lessor/agent uses a tenancy database, they must give each applicant written notice containing certain information. A sample notice (Form 18A) would be attached to the Application to rent residential premises (Form 18).

The Act defines the rights and responsibilities of database operators. Failing to meet certain responsibilities can result in the Department issuing an infringement notice (also referred to as a modified penalty) or prosecuting offending operators before a Court.

Only a Court can issue the penalties listed in each Act, but where the Department believes there is sufficient basis for a belief that an offence was committed it may issue an Infringement Notice. The current maximum penalty for an Infringement Notice can be as high as $4,000.

Database operator should read the following lists of infringements in context with the full provisions of the Act and Regulations, which can be downloaded or purchased from the State Law Publisher.

Prescribed offences and modified penalties

Prescribed offences and modified penalties
Offences under Residential Tenancies Act 1987
Residential Tenancies Regulations 1989 Schedule 5
Modified penalty
s. 82E(1) Listing personal information in residential tenancy database contrary to section 82E(1) $1,000
s. 82F(1) Listing personal information in residential tenancy database contrary to section 82F(1) $1,000
s. 82H(2) Failing to amend or remove personal information from residential tenancy database within 14 days $1,000
s. 82I(2 Failing to give copy of personal information within 14 days of request $1,000
s. 82K(2 Keeping personal information in a database longer than permitted $1,000

 

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