After a months-long search, you find the perfect home, fill out the necessary forms and raise the funds for your bond. Finally, the home is yours.
Not so fast.
When you’re searching for a new rental, finding the perfect property is only half the battle. Securing the home is another matter altogether.
Before the agent recommends you to the landlord, they’re likely to check if you’re listed on one of Australia’s tenancy databases. If you are, it could be a reason for your new landlord to choose another applicant over you.
What is a tenancy database?
Tenancy databases, also known as tenant databases, are privately owned lists which contain certain people’s rental history. If you’re on the list, it likely means an agent or landlord has reported you for violating the terms of a previous lease.
There are a few different companies running and maintaining these lists and most real estate agents subscribe to at least one of them.
What are they used for?
Tenancy databases are used by agents and private landlords to make sure prospective tenants are reliable and likely to be respectful of their rental property. If you’ve never breached your rental contract, or done anything deemed wrong by your agent or landlord, there’s little chance you’ll be listed.
According to Philip Nounnis, Managing Director of Australia’s largest tenancy database, TICA, “legislation put in place across Australia has effectively turned tenancy databases into blacklists”.
“The best way for a tenant to avoid a listing is really quite simple: stick with the terms and conditions of your lease.
“In our experience, the most common underlying reason for a listing is that the tenant could not afford the property in the first place. If they had chosen a property for $100 a week less instead, they would never [have been listed] on a database and would be considered an A grade tenant.
“Generally speaking, locations with high transient populations such as holiday spots and fruit picking areas are where we tend to see more listings.”
What can I get blacklisted for?
In every state except the Northern Territory, strict legislation prevents a landlord or agent listing you on a rental blacklist without a good reason to do so. While the legislation differs from state to state, generally you can only be blacklisted at the end of lease. And only if you owe rent that’s greater than your bond, or if a court or tribunal order states that you must be listed.
Not paying rent
Always a big no-no. When you fail to pay rent the landlord has to dig into their own pockets to cover costs. While the odd payment a day or two late is unlikely to earn you a listing, consistently late payments might.
If you’ve previously left a property owing rent that exceeded the amount of your bond, it’s safe to assume that you’ve been listed.
Damaging a property through neglect or recklessness is guaranteed to anger your landlord and their agent.
While you are not responsible for reasonable wear and tear in the ordinary use of your rental, you will typically be held responsible for other damage you cause. If it’s left unaddressed, it will likely earn you a place on the tenancy blacklist.
Leaving your bond to cover outstanding rent
This is a common mistake made by first-time tenants. Tenants are required to pay their rent in full and not rely on a rental bond to cover outstanding amounts. Your bond should be repaid to you after the landlord signs off on an acceptable final condition report.
Usually when tenants do this, it’s because they don’t read their rental agreements. But even if it’s an innocent mistake, it could still land you on the tenancy database and cause you problems in the future.
If you’re ever in doubt, speak to your agent, consider seeking legal advice, or contact your local consumer affairs office.
What happens if I’m about to be listed?
Before an agent or owner lists you on a tenancy database, they are required to advise you in writing, or at least undertake reasonable steps to advise you. This gives you time to appeal the decision.
If you are listed, your chances of renting a new property may be compromised. So what can you do about it?
Pay up within 3 months
If you owe money for outstanding rent or repairs, you have three months to pay up and your name will be removed from the database
Problems paying rent?
If you think you are likely to fall behind on rent because you’ve lost your job or are having financial difficulties, Nounnis recommends you get in contact with your agent as soon as possible.
“If you outline your problem to the agent and put in place a plan to make up any shortfalls, most agents will look favourably on that,” he says.
Appealing the decision
If you believe your listing is unfair and negotiations with your agent or landlord are unproductive, you should raise an objection with the relevant court or tribunal.
How do I find out if I’m on a national tenancy database list?
Want to find out if you are on a tenancy blacklist? Australia’s three largest lists are managed by TICA, National Tenancy Database and TRA. You can visit their websites to find out how to request any information they may hold on you. Most charge a fee to check if your name is listed.
However, if a property manager finds that you are on a blacklist when they run a name-check before handing over the keys, they should let you know within seven days that you are listed, and provide you with information on which agent listed you, as well as their reasons for doing so. The agent who listed you is obliged to provide you with a copy of your information free of charge, within 14 days of you contacting them. Information can be held on you for up to three years.
So unless it’s urgent for you to find out whether you’ve been listed, there’s little reason to pay for a rental history check.
How can I get my name removed from a database like TICA
You will need to write to the property manager or agent to request to have your name removed from the tenancy database.
If there is an outstanding amount of money owing you’ll need to liaise with them to pay it or take it to a tenancy tribunal if there is a dispute.
How long will my name stay on a tenancy blacklist
If you’ve found yourself on a tenancy database try not to worry too much, there are ways you can address the situation.
Here’s what you need to know about having your name removed from a national tenancy database:
- Once the outstanding money has been paid your name should be removed within three months.
- If it takes longer than three months to pay any outstanding amounts your name will remain on the list but once the debt is cleared it will reflect the paid status.
- Your name will be removed automatically after three years otherwise the operator will be fined.
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