Tenancy databases are used mainly by agents as a way of screening prospective tenants.
The Residential Tenancies Act 2010 sets out who, when, and why a person can be listed. The Act also enables disputes over proposed and existing listings to be resolved. If you believe that an agent or landlord has listed information about you that is incorrect, out-of-date or unjust, there are ways you can go about having the information removed or amended.
Tenancy databases are run by private companies, not by the Government or the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. They collect and hold information about tenants and can only be used by members (mostly 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 in NSW, including TICA, National Tenancy Database and Trading Reference Australia. Tenancy databases are sometimes referred to as 'blacklists' or 'bad tenant databases'.
Files kept by an individual landlord or agency for their own internal use (hard copy or computerised) are not databases for the purposes of the legislation.
You can only be listed on a database if you are named on the lease as a tenant. Approved or unapproved occupants, visitors or children cannot be listed.
You can only be listed on a database after your tenancy has ended. You cannot be listed on a database simply because you fall behind with the rent, are given a termination notice or are not looking after the property in a satisfactory way.
You can only be listed on a database for one or both of the following two reasons:
Any information recorded on a database must identify the reason for the listing in an accurate, complete and unambiguous way. For example, 'eviction order given on grounds of rent arrears, tenant owes $500 in rent above the bond'.
Landlords or agents must advise you in writing if they propose to list you on a tenancy database. They must also give you details of the proposed listing, or take reasonable steps to try to advise you. They can do this by sending a letter to your new address (if known) or to the address of the rented premises (in case you are having your mail redirected).
They must give you at least 14 days to object before listing you on the database. You can apply to the Tribunal if you think the proposed listing would be incorrect or unjust.
If you apply for a tenancy and the landlord or agent discovers you have been listed on a database, they must advise you in writing. They should inform you of the contact details of the person who has listed you and how you can go about checking what the listing says and having it corrected or amended (if need be). They do not have to advise you of the reason for the listing. You are entitled to a copy of the information from the person who listed you (free of charge) or direct from the database operator. The database operator can charge you a fee for the information but it must not be excessive.
Some database operators also provide information over the phone, but be aware that high charges may apply.
Any listing that is older than 3 years must be removed from a database. Listings under 3 years must also be removed if they are 'out-of-date'. This is where any amount you owed above the bond has been repaid to the landlord within 3 months or if the termination order made by the Tribunal was not enforced.
Listings also need to be amended if the information is inaccurate, incomplete or ambiguous.
You can also seek to have your name removed from a tenancy database if you think the listing was unjust.
Any changes to the database records must be done by the landlord or agent within 7 days of them becoming aware that the information needs to be changed, if they can do it themselves, or within 14 days if they need to notify the database operator to have it removed or amended.
The laws apply to all listings, including any listings made before the new laws commenced.
You are able to apply to the Tribunal to have incorrect, out-of-date or unjust listings removed if you cannot resolve the matter with the agent or landlord.
The Tribunal can order information about you in the database to be wholly or partly removed, changed, or not listed at all if it was a proposed listing. The Tribunal also has the ability to award compensation to you if you have suffered a loss as a result of inaccurate, ambiguous or out-of-date information being listed on a tenancy database.
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