Residential tenancy databases contain information about tenants. This information is used to screen tenants applying for rental accommodation. In October 2011 the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 was amended to regulate the use of tenancy databases. The amendments came into effect on 1 January 2012 and contain requirements for the collection, use and disclosure of information in tenant databases.
Tenant databases are privately owned and commercially operated databases that are used by real estate agents to screen prospective tenants. These databases are used across Australia, including in Tasmania.
Information in tenant databases has the potential to severely impact on tenants' ability to secure housing. For this reason, there is national agreement that tenant databases should be regulated to ensure that:
Amendments made to the Residential Tenancy Act 1997 in late 2011 incorporate nationally agreed model provisions to regulate tenant databases.
Under the model provisions, a listing can only occur where there has been a breach of a residential tenancy agreement and because of that breach, either:
Information stored in a database can only relate to the breach.
Information can be stored for up to three years.
When you apply to rent a property, the property owner or agent must provide you with details of any tenancy database they use. If the database contains information about you, the owner or agent must also notify you of this, including who listed the information and how you can have the information amended or removed.
Where information is added to a database, the property owner or agent or the database operator must give the person the subject of the listing a copy of the information listed or take reasonable steps to do so. The person must be given 14 days to respond to the listing and any response must be considered.
If a property owner or agent becomes aware that information is inaccurate, incomplete, ambiguous or out of date, they must, within seven days, advise the database operator that it needs to be corrected or removed. The database operator must amend or remove the information accordingly.
Information that is 'inaccurate' includes information that indicates that a person owes an amount that is more than the security deposit but they have repaid the amount more than three months after it became due.
Where information is inaccurate, incomplete or ambiguous it must be amended so that it is no longer inaccurate, incomplete or ambiguous.
Information is 'out of date' if:
Where information is out of date it must be removed from the database.
A person can request that the owner, agent or database operator provide a copy of any information they have listed about that person.
A property owner or agent or a database operator may charge a fee for providing a copy of information listed as long as it is not excessive. However, a fee cannot be charged for making an application for information.
A person affected by a listing can apply to the Residential Tenancy Commissioner for an order enforcing compliance with the tenant database provisions. Where the Commissioner considers that information in a database is inaccurate, incomplete, ambiguous or out of date, the Commissioner can make an appropriate order.
A new Part 4C 'Residential Tenancy Databases' has been inserted (see sections 48U-48ZF).
The Residential Tenancy Act 1997 was amended in October 2011 to regulate the use of these databases. The amendments came into effect on 1 January 2012.