Tenancy Databases (NT)
Updated on Nov 03, 2023 • 5 min read • 244 views • Copy Link
Tenancy Databases (NT)
A “tenancy database” is a list of tenants reported for a breach of their tenancy agreement. Real estate agents and property owners use these databases to screen prospective tenants. Being listed on a tenancy database can make it extremely difficult for a tenant to find rental accommodation. Given these serious consequences, there are strict rules around the use of tenancy databases in Australia. The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2018 No.11 imposes restrictions on the use of tenancy databases in the Northern Territory.
What are tenancy databases?
Tenancy databases in Australia are private, commercial entities. In the Northern Territory, the most commonly used databases are the National Tenancy Database (NTD), Trading Reference Australia (TRA) and the Tenancy Information Centre Australasia (TICA). TICA, for instance, holds over seven million records on Australian tenants. While the Northern Territory Department of Housing does not use these databases, landlords, real estate agents, caravan park managers and boarding house operators use these lists to report and discover tenants with a track record of breaching tenancy agreements.
An entry on a tenancy database can only last for three years. Under the Australian Privacy Principals established in the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), this listing period may be even shorter, as the information can only be retained for the period required to serve the original purpose.
Listing a tenant on a database
A tenancy database is essentially a “blacklist” that notes a tenant’s personal information. Given the significant consequences of being listed on a tenancy database, there are restrictions on who can report a tenant. A landlord can only make a record of a tenant personally listed on a tenancy agreement with that landlord. In addition, a landlord can only list a tenant if they breached the lease to the extent that the damages exceed the security deposit. Typically, breaches of this nature relate to a repeated failure to pay rent, or serious damage to the property. Additionally, a landlord can list a tenant if the Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) terminates the tenancy because a tenant breached the tenancy agreement.
If a landlord intends to list a tenant on a database, they must notify them in writing at least 28 days beforehand, providing a copy of the listing. This is intended to allow the tenant an opportunity to review the information and submit an objection to the entry. However, the requirement for notice is waived if the landlord cannot locate the tenant after reasonable enquiries. In addition, there is no requirement for notification when the information is otherwise publicly available through court or tribunal records.
Researching potential tenants
A landlord who wants to use a tenancy database to research a potential tenant must provide written notification to the applicant. This notification must specify the name of the database and how the tenant can contact the database operator. Often this notification requirement is fulfilled by a clause in the rental application form.
When a landlord finds a record of their potential tenant on the database, they must notify the potential tenant in writing within seven days, specifying the following:
- The name of the database;
- The name of the listing agent or landlord;
- The personal information listed on the database; and
- The ways that the potential tenant can request the removal or amendment of the record.
A tenant can then request a written copy of their personal information from the agent or database company. The companies may charge a reasonable processing fee for the information. If the tenant believes that the charge is excessive, they can apply to NTCAT for an order on the matter. The database company must release the information within 14 days of request or (if required) payment of fee.
Disputing a listing
When a tenant intends to dispute an actual or potential listing on a tenancy database, they should first contact their landlord (or former landlord). A landlord has a legal obligation to only include accurate and unambiguous information to the database. If a landlord becomes aware of an error in the information they provided, they must notify the database company within seven days. Following this notification, the database must remove or amend the incorrect information within 14 days. The landlord needs to keep a record of this correction notification for at least another year.
If the tenant cannot reach an agreement with the landlord, the next step is to contact the database provider directly. A database provider will usually amend or remove a record if the tenant can prove mistaken identity or demonstrate that the landlord has provided false, incomplete or misleading information. With TICA, a landlord must be able to verify their case for the inclusion of the tenant on the database within seven days.
When the situation cannot be resolved informally (between landlord and tenant, or tenant and database operator), the tenant can apply to NTCAT. Under section 134 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1999, the Tribunal can prohibit a landlord from making the listing, or order an amendment or removal of a current listing.
Landlords in the Northern Territory use several different tenancy databases to screen potential tenants. Go To Court Lawyers can help if you feel that you have unfairly been listed on a tenancy database. Please call 1300 636 846 or contact the team for any legal assistance.
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