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Ask the RTA

Jul 2016

Stumped by a tenancy problem? Send your question to openhouse@rta.qld.gov.au along with your daytime contact number and we will answer the best questions in Open house - Community support workers.

Is the 3 year listing limited to a tenant who has cleared their debt?

I wanted to seek clarification on the new clause that tenants can only be listed for three years on a tenancy database. Is that limited to those tenants that have actually cleared the debt owed to the landlord?

Tenancy database laws established through the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (RTRA Act) outline who can be listed on a tenancy database, when and for what reason. The changes to tenancy database laws will also bring Queensland into line with national minimum standards around tenancy database listings.

One of the national standards is that listings must be removed after 3 years. This applies to old listings, whether the debt has been paid or not. Under the new provisions, listings must be removed if the tenant pays the full amount within 3 months of the debt owing. If the tenant pays all or part of the amount owing more than 3 months after the debt became payable, the listing must be amended to reflect that, however the amended listing cannot remain on the database for more than 3 years.

Does the new law extend to credit databases?

Is this new law limited to tenancy databases or does it extend to credit databases as well? So in the event that the tenant still owes money at the end of the 3 year tenancy database listing they can be placed on credit databases so they don’t get a free ride?

They do not affect listings on credit databases which are subject to other legislative obligations.

What protection is there to have a debt paid?

I understand that tenants who have cleared debt should be removed within 3 years and that the databases are updated if the tenant has contributed to their debt. But what I have grave concerns that if a tenant is removed after 3 years with debt owing. What protection is there for landlords that they may get the debt paid off?

While removing a listing before a debt is repaid can cause concern, not removing a database listing when a debt is paid provides little incentive for tenants to meet that obligation. It is a common principle regarding bankruptcy and adverse credit ratings that there is a time limit on the record.

Property owners and managers are also very unlikely to rely solely on tenancy database reports as the only way to manage risks about prospective tenants, particularly since these are not consistently used by property managers to list defaulting tenants. Methods such as interviews, income and rental history verification can also reduce the risk that someone has a poor tenancy history.

Tenancy database laws have been in place in every other Australian state for some time, and tenancy database companies that operate nationally should be aware of their obligations under both tenancy legislation and privacy laws, including the 3 year limit on listings.