Tenancy Databases (Vic)
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 Victoria 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 stored on a database. A person can be listed in a database:
- for a maximum of 3 years;
- once a lease has ended (not during the lease);
- if they owe more money than the bond will cover (e.g. rental arrears);
- if a tribunal has ruled the lease can be terminated as the result of a breach.
The Act states the information must be “accurate, complete and unambiguous”. A person’s information must not be listed in the database if a breach of a lease was the result of an act or a circumstance of family or personal violence experienced by the person.
A maximum penalty of a fine of 60 penalty units ($10,904.40) applies to some offences involving use a database.
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.
A rental provider must advise a potential tenant of any databases they intend to search. If a rental provider finds a person on a database, they are required to advise the person of the database, the information about the person that is stored on it, and 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provider lists information on a database and becomes aware the information is inaccurate, incomplete, ambiguous or out of date, or that it relates to an act or a circumstance of family or personal violence experienced by the person about whom the information is listed, the rental provider must notify the database operator within 7 days. The operator must amend or remove the information within 14 days. Non-compliance with this requirement, by the rental provider or database operator, carries a maximum penalty of a fine of 150 penalty units ($27,261).
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. Non-compliance with a request carries a maximum penalty of a fine of 60 penalty units ($10,904.40) for a rental provider, or 20 penalty units ($3634.80) for a database operator.
A person can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) 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. VCAT can make an order in situations such as when a person’s breach of a lease was the result of an act or a circumstance of family or personal violence, when listing the information would pose a risk to a person’s safety, or when listing the information would be unjust to the person.
Rental provider database
Consumer Affairs Victoria keeps a database of rental providers, called a “rental non-compliance register”. Renters can search the registers to check if a rental provider has had any VCAT orders made against them, or if the rental provider has been convicted of any offences under the Act. VCAT could have made an order that the rental provider fix a breach, pay compensation or not commit a further breach.
The register includes information such as the name of the rental provider and/or their agent; the address of the rented property to which the order relates; and the date of the VCAT order or conviction and the provision of the Act that was breached. The information stays on the database for a maximum of 3 years.
Consumer Affairs Victoria must not list a rental provider’s information on the register unless they have given the rental provider a copy of the information or taken reasonable steps to disclose it to them. The rental provider then must be given 14 days to review it, object to its entry in the database or question its accuracy, completeness or clarity. The rental provider can apply to VCAT to have the information on the register amended or removed.
For information or advice in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.