Host: Belinda Heit – Communication and Education – RTA
Guest: Nasa Walton – Chief Digital Officer – RTA
Host: Welcome to the Talking Tenancies podcast brought to you by the Residential Tenancies Authority, I'm your host Belinda Heit. Join me as we explore everything you need to know about renting in Queensland with experts from the RTA and industry. We're here to help make renting work for everyone.
In June 2019, the RTA launched its first web service for single bond lodgements. In December 2019, the RTA launched a suite of web services for essential end of tenancy transactions. Today's expert from the RTA to chat about RTA's web services is Nasa Walton, the RTA's Chief Digital Officer. Welcome Nasa.
Guest: Thanks Belinda.
Host: Now, can you tell us about your role at the RTA and what you're responsible for?
Guest: As Chief Digital Officer of the Residential Tenancies Authority, I'm pretty excited about being on the journey to modernising the RTA's digital future. I'm working very closely with the team to provide a range of RTA services in a digital format to enable our customers to be able to use our services as they need, when they need. And make renting easier for everyone.
Host: So yeah, web services is a is a big part of that. Isn't it?
Guest: It is. It is our first public launch of digital things. We've done some other things in the background, like sending text messages around your status. But yes, web service is our first digital product for customers to use.
Host: Excellent, so the introduction of web services has made a significant difference to the RTA and the QLD renting community. Can you tell us more about the kinds of transactions that both managing parties and tenants can complete with us online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?
Guest: Yeah, I can Belinda. So, the transactions that we've been focusing on at the RTA are the ones that have been the paper heavy processing transactions. So, this is all about lodging your bond, requesting a refund of your bond, updating your details, and disputing a bond refund request.
So, these are the transactional things that we have been updating into a digital form. The tenancy forms, as we call them, are still to come at a later stage because many of those are already digital for the real estate agencies in the industry.
At this point we are focusing on our bond transactional forms, but I'm really excited that you are now able to lodge a bond online at any time and pay immediately by credit card or debit card and that makes the transactions much faster. (at the time of recording).
You can lodge a refund request and then the other party of that refund request will then receive a fast-track notice to say, do you agree to that request? And then you also get a notice of claim form, so you get a form if you're managing agent or the tenant has also put in that claim and you've disagreed with the amounts, or the way they want to disperse the bond, so you can still dispute your bond claim.
Host: Now also web services is a big part of our ongoing digital transformation here at the RTA isn’t it?
Guest: It is. So, part of our digital transformation is; we've got a digital IT strategy and that's all around moving the RTA into a modern and contemporary practice for our customers. And that's all about our customers accessing our services any time, at the right time, 24 hours a day, and making renting easy for everyone.
Host: That's a massive change to the industry, isn't it?
Guest: It is, because in the past, without web services, it would take you days to get the form emailed backwards and forwards, and everyone had to sign it and take a photo and upload it to our service. With the instant Web service and that instant payment option now, you can now lodge your bond on a day that you secure your property, and you can have notification back from us within 24 hours that it's been confirmed.
Host: That's life changing stuff.
Guest: It is life changing. It means people getting into their homes earlier.
Host: That's great. Right, so as this is a new service, we've been getting plenty of questions about web services security. How does the RTA check the identity of customers using web services?
Guest: So, to use the service online you have to go through the Queensland Government's identity and authentication process. This is very similar to if you've had a MyGov account, which you use for Centrelink, Medicare, or Family assistance.
So, Queensland Government has its own identity system exactly the same as MyGov, which helps us identify you for Queensland government. The identity is there to ensure that you're a real person and that you're authorised to use our systems because we've identified you by ID. It enables us to collect the information that you submit without needing you to actually sign a form. So, think of going through QGov as your digital signature for the forms that you use to sign.
Host: Yeah, much easier too. So, what can customers do if they can't prove that digital identity through QGov?
Guest: So, we are aware that some customers may not have all the identification documents, or there might be international students, and we're still working with the Queensland Government who is hoping to get international students on by the end of the year.
There are still things that you can do to prove your identity. The first thing you can do is you can create the account and try and go through the form. You can try this out three times, but then what you can do is make an appointment with one of the Queensland Government one stop shops and you can go in and prove your identity with them and then you can use the system.
Host: Right, so also for people who aren't an Australian resident. That's a bit tricky for them too, isn’t it
Guest: Look, it is, and it is one of those things that you may have to wait till you're into the country. Now it doesn't matter about the bond lodgement, you can still have your Managing Agent lodge it on your behalf. You can still pay, if they send you the BPAY reference number. You can still make that payment. You can ignore the messages and within seven days we'll still send you that bond acknowledgment form.
Host: OK great, so why do customers need a unique e-mail address to use web services?
Guest: So, there's two reasons Belinda, that you need that unique e-mail. The first is the Privacy Act 2009, so, we respect your privacy, and even though you're in a relationship with someone and may have a shared account, in fact your two individuals, and therefore we need to treat your information with everything that it entails under that Privacy Act, and therefore we require a unique e-mail address for each party so we can communicate to you individually.
The second point is that it's also part of our response to domestic and family violence. When relationships are going well. Yes, shared emails can be used to manage the household accounts, but when it comes to relationships that may be deteriorating, there can be times where we don't want to have the information going to both parties at the same time on the one e-mail address. So, this is why we've taken these steps, and it's only a unique e-mail address for each party now with the RTA.
Host: Yeah, so it's just another step to minimise those security risks, isn't it?
Guest: It is and we want to protect all Queenslanders and protect everyone's privacy. And that goes for whether you're a joint lesser or a joint property owner, versus real estate agents, versus tenants. Everyone needs that unique identifier.
Host: So, how does the managing party know if the tenant has lodged a bond or requested a refund using web services?
Guest: Yeah, so in the case of the bond lodgement, once a tenant lodges the bond on their behalf, they are asked to put in the managing agents’ details. Once they've asked to do that, it matches in our system with some secret algorithms that we have in place and once the payment is through our system, we can then send that bond acknowledgement letter to all parties, including the managing agent.
So, the managing agent does receive a bond acknowledgement from the RTA like they do today when you pay by cheque. The only difference is if a tenant pays by credit card, they might want to show a credit card receipt so they can get instant access to their keys if they're looking to enter into the property the same day. So, the bond lodgement has that ability to do that because of the credit card and being online.
In terms of the refund form, if the tenant has completed the request for refund form, we send a fast-track notice to the managing agent and we tell them the tenant has claimed the bond at this premises and they would like the monies dispersed this way. Do they agree? Do they not agree?
So, the managing agent gets that notice and it has action required up in the top, so they know that it's important from us, and they can go in and click those links and they can either agree because they've had a joint conversation on how the bond should be dispersed or they can say no we don't agree at this point and then it moves to the notice of claim process and in the notice of claim process all parties are informed. So, the original author of the Bond request gets a notice to say the other party has disputed and is going to submit a notice of claim and then the managing agent gets the ability to say no, this is how the bond should be dispersed and the reasons why.
And that's our notice of claim process. So, the managing agent does get informed. In fact, all parties get informed at each part, so they know exactly where the process is up to.
Host: That is such a huge improvement because it's such a transparent process from end to end, everybody knows what's going on at the same time all the time.
So, if someone finds out what your bond number is. Can they refund the bond to themselves through RTA web services?
Guest: They would like to, but no, they can't. No, even if someone knows your bond reference number, no one can do that because of that identity check. They need to be you and they need to have access to your identity documents to be able to go through. But it's also because those other checks and balances are there.
We have some secret algorithms that are looking for what we call ‘matching rules’ in the background and we double check everything all the time, so your information has to be accurate and up to date for what our system has, which is why our update your details form is also very important to make sure your details are always kept up to date. But we also then make sure that even if it does go through because someone has had access to your identity documents, that we still send out the information to the other parties and we still need to have their agreement. And if they come back and say no, they haven't left the tenancy. Not sure why this is here? We can then do those appropriate follow up checks.
Host: So yeah, if someone you know who is not on the bond and tries to process a refund, obviously we're going to catch that and make sure it can't happen.
Guest: That's correct.
Host: Now all managing parties have a unique RTA ID. If someone finds out an organisations RTA ID, can they use web services to refund other customers bonds to themselves?
Guest: So no, they can't, it's very similar to the bond reference number. The RTA ID for real estate agent is very unique, but it's also just a single point of data that we use as part of our secret algorithms and matching. So no, just because you know an RTA ID does not mean that you're able to mimic or be the managing agent and refund bonds. There's a whole range of things that need to change.
The other measure that we've also put into place that will help make everyone more comfortable with our service, is that even if a managing agent authors a refund form, a link still goes to the tenant and only the tenant can update their bank account details.
So, even if someone manages to secure all of the company information around a real estate agent. They would still need to be able to pretend to be the tenant to put the bank account detail in. There are a number of measures that we've put in place for cyber security and for the protection of privacy.
Host: Yeah, so as a tenant and you got one of those notifications and you're like, uh, ah something's going on...
Guest: Right, yes - I’m calling the RTA!
Host: Wow, so to wrap it up, we've put a lot of thought into making web services a safe and secure service for our customers.
Guest: We have, yes. We've taken every measure possible, including making sure that it's completely compliant to the Queensland Government Information Security 18 policy as well as the Australian Signals Directorate as well. So that's all been absolutely assessed and is safe and secure.
Host: Yeah, and web services is fast and easy to use with customers lodging a bond or requesting a refund through web services in sometimes under five minutes.
Guest: Yeah, so we’re really excited about refunds now, where it used to take you on average around 7 days after you've had your exit interview and you've negotiated what's going to be refunded, by the time it used to take people to fill out the form and e-mail it backwards and forwards and send it to us then we had 48 hours.
We're down now to less than 24 hours and even can be the same day. If it's fully agreed before 2:00pm tenants and real estate agents can have their monies back in their accounts at 10:00pm that night. It is a really easy and convenient service and we do encourage its use.
Host: Yeah, that's incredible. Well, thank you Nasa. We know all about web services now, so if you want to find out more head on to our website at rta.qld.gov.au
Guest: Thanks Belinda.
Host: Thank you for listening to the Talking Tenancies Podcast. For more information about the Residential Tenancies Authority, visit rta.qld.gov.au.