Tenancy databases are registers run by privately owned companies that record information about tenants who have had their tenancy agreements ended for specific reasons.
Changes to tenancy database laws took effect on 1 July 2016 and impact how property managers/owners use these databases to check the rental history of a prospective tenant.
Tenancy databases give property owners a way of protecting their property investments, however unfair listings have occurred in the past. The Act provides protection against inaccurate, incomplete, ambiguous or out-of-date listings while recognising the property owner’s right to take reasonable steps to protect their property. Find out more about the law changes.
Who can be listed?
Only tenants named on the tenancy agreement can be listed on a tenancy database. Approved or unapproved occupants, visitors or children cannot be listed. This is because only the named tenant/s are accountable for the rental property and have obligations under the tenancy agreement.
When can a tenant be listed?
Tenants can only be listed on a database after the tenancy agreement has ended.
What can a tenant be listed for?
A tenant named on the tenancy agreement can only be listed after the tenancy has ended in one of the following circumstances:
Tenants may be listed where the tenancy has ended and the amount owing exceeds the rental bond, and:
- the money owed under a conciliation agreement or QCAT order is not paid on time, or
- they have been served with a Notice to remedy breach (Form 11) for rent arrears and have failed to remedy the breach, or
- after abandonment of the property, unless the dispute is currently subject to a QCAT determination.
If no rental bond has been paid, a tenant cannot be listed unless the amount owing is more than 1 week’s rent.
A tenant can be listed for objectionable behaviour where QCAT has terminated the tenancy agreement for that reason.
A tenant can be listed for repeated breaches where the Tribunal has terminated the tenancy agreement for that reason.
Domestic and family violence
QCAT can make an order that a person must not be listed on a tenancy database where the breach is a result of the actions of a perpetrator's violence. The perpetrator can be listed on the database.
What must the listing person do before listing information about a person?
The listing person must advise the tenant in writing and give details about the proposed listing, or take reasonable steps to advise the tenant of the proposed listing before the listing can be made.
What can a tenant do about a listing?
If a tenant is aware of a proposed or existing listing and if they don’t agree, they can:
- talk to the listing person and try to reach an agreement. A property manager/owner has 7 days to amend a listing that is inaccurate, incomplete, ambiguous or out of date.
- lodge a Dispute resolution request (Form 16) and the RTA may be able to help to try and negotiate an agreement about the listing, or
- apply directly to QCAT to order the person, agency or tenancy database operator not to list, or vary the listing with certain changes and/or conditions as appropriate.
A dispute about a listing on the grounds it does not meet the approved criteria must be initiated within 6 months of the tenant becoming aware of the listing.
Database operators have 14 days to amend inaccurate, incomplete or ambiguous listings, or 14 days to remove out of date listings.
How long can listings be on databases?
Database operators must not keep listings longer than 3 years. They had until 1 January 2017 to remove all listings that were more than 3 years old.
What if the listing person does not follow the QCAT order?
Any person or agency (including a tenancy database operator) not complying with a QCAT order can be prosecuted in the Magistrates Court and be charged up to 50 penalty units or $6,095.00 (as at 1 July 2016). They can also be fined up to 5 penalty units ($609.50) for each day the offence continues.
Tenants should contact the RTA in order to make a complaint.
Compensation for listings
If the person or agency (including a tenancy database operator) does not comply with a QCAT order about a listing and is subsequently convicted, the Magistrates Court may make an order for them to pay compensation to the person they listed. However, there would need to be clear evidence of damage or suffering as a result of the listing for compensation to be ordered.
Before a tenancy starts
Property managers and owners must inform prospective tenants of which tenancy databases they use, how they use it (e.g. to vet applications) and how the tenant can contact the database company. They must also advise the prospective tenants of any listings they find, what that listing is and how the tenant can have it amended or removed.
For more information contact the RTA on 1300 366 311.