Tenancy Databases (ACT)
A tenancy database, sometimes called a “blacklist”, contains information about tenants, and is used by rental providers, such as real estate agents and landlords, to screen potential tenants. These databases are usually run by private companies, who charge a fee for access to the information. The use of such databases in the Australian Capital Territory is governed by the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, as well as the commonwealth Privacy Act 1988.
How does a tenant end up in a database?
There are strict rules about information that can be listed on a database. A person’s information cannot be listed unless:
- they were named as a tenant;
- the lease has ended;
- the person has breached the lease;
- because of the breach, the person owes an amount more than the bond, or the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) has made a termination order;
- the information relates only to the breach and it is accurate, complete and unambiguous.
A breach can include rent in arrears or damage to premises.
A rental provider must not list a person’s information on a database unless they have given the person a copy of the information or taken reasonable steps to disclose it to them. The person then must be given 14 days to review it, object to its entry in the database or question its accuracy, completeness or clarity.
The information placed on the database must be accurate, complete, unambiguous and current. It must not be kept on the database for more than 3 years.
A rental provider must advise a potential tenant of the name of any databases they intend to search, and how the potential tenant can contact the database operators and obtain information.
If a rental provider finds a person on a database, they are required to advise the person, within 7 days, of the information about the person that is stored on it, who listed the information, how and in what circumstances the person can have the information amended or removed.
If a rental provider lists information on a database and becomes aware the information is inaccurate, incomplete, ambiguous or out of date, the rental provider must notify the database operator of this within 7 days, and advise the operator of how the information must be amended or that it must be removed. The operator must amend or remove the information within 14 days.
A rental provider or database operator must provide a person with a copy of information held about the person on the database within 14 days of a request by the person. A fee can be charged for this.
A person can apply to ACAT for an order to prohibit a rental provider from listing information about them on a database, or to have information listed on a database amended or removed. The person must apply within 6 months of becoming aware of the listing.
ACAT can make an order in situations when:
- the information is inaccurate, incomplete, ambiguous or out of date;
- listing the information would be unjust to the person, considering:
- the reason for the listing;
- the person’s involvement in the circumstances that led to the listing;
- adverse consequences for the person from the listing;
- any other matter.
The order can be made against any person, including the database operator and the person who listed the information. ACAT can also order compensation be paid to a person affected by non-compliance with an order.
For information or advice in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.