Tenancy databases may be used by lessors as a way of screening prospective tenants.
Tenancy databases may be used by lessors (landlords) or real estate agents as a way of screening people who have applied to rent a property. They are commonly referred to as “blacklists” or “bad tenant databases”.
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.
The Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (the Act) sets out rules about the use of tenancy databases including:
- The criteria for listing a person on a tenancy database and the kind of information that may be held;
- Requirements for lessors and database operators to provide tenants and prospective tenants with information;
- Provisions for tenants to have the listing removed or amended if the information included about them is inaccurate, out-of-date or unjust.
If you believe an agent, lessor, property manager or database operator has listed information about you that is incorrect, out of-date or unjust, there are ways you can go about having the information removed or amended. For more information, see the page Add or remove a tenant from a database.
When can a person be listed on a tenancy database?
A person can only be listed in a tenancy database if they have breached a tenancy agreement, and as a result of that breach, either:
- A court has made an order terminating the tenancy agreement; or
- When the tenancy has ended, the tenant owes the lessor an amount that is more than the amount of the security bond.
A lessor, agent or database operator cannot add a tenant’s personal details to a residential tenancy database in relation to any rental arrears during the emergency period (being 30 March 2020 to 28 March 2021) due to financial hardship caused by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A lessor, agent or database operator cannot list a person on a database unless they are named on the tenancy agreement as a tenant. Approved or unapproved occupants, visitors or children cannot be listed. It is unjust to list a person in a tenancy database if the reason for the listing arises from them being subjected to family violence.
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'.
Information to be provided to tenants and prospective tenants
If a lessor or an agent typically uses a tenancy database to screen tenants, they must give each applicant written notice stating the name of any tenancy database they typically use and providing contact information for the database operator. A sample notice (Form 18A) would be attached to the Application to rent residential premises (Form 18).
If a lessor or agent finds personal information about prospective tenant information in a tenancy database, they must inform the prospective tenant within 7 days. This notice must be in writing and must include:
- The name of the database;
- The name of each person that made the listing (if this information is included in the database);
- How and in what circumstances the prospective tenant can have the listing removed or amended.
If a lessor or agent intends to list a tenant in a tenancy database, they must take reasonable steps to notify the tenant in writing of the details of the proposed listing. The tenant must then be given 14 days to object before the information can be listed.
If a person has information about them listed in a tenancy database, they can make a written request for a copy of this information to the database operator or the landlord/agent that made the listing. The requested information must be provided within 14 days.
A reasonable fee can be charged for providing this information, but not for simply lodging the request.
Lessors, agents and database operators have obligations under the Act. Failing to meet certain responsibilities under the Act can result in the Department issuing an infringement notice (also referred to as a modified penalty) or prosecuting offenders 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.
The following lists of infringements should be in context with the full provisions of the Act and Regulations, which can be downloaded from the Department of Justice's Legislation website.
|Offences under Residential Tenancies Act 1987
Residential Tenancies Regulations 1989 Schedule 5
|Failing to give written notice to an applicant of usual use of residential tenancy database
|Failing to give an applicant written notice of personal information stored on the residential tenancy database
|Listing personal information about a person in residential tenancy database contrary to section 82E(1)
|Listing personal information in residential tenancy database contrary to section 82F(1)
|Failing to keep a copy of a written notice under s.82G(2) for one year
|Failing to amend or remove personal information from residential tenancy database within 14 days
|Lessor or lessor's agent failing to give copy of personal information within 14 days of request
|Database operator failing to give copy of personal information in residential tenancy database within 14 days of request
|Keeping personal information in a database longer than permitted