Tenancy databases, also referred to as ‘blacklists’ or ‘bad tenant databases’, contain information about the renting history of certain tenants.
A landlord or estate agent can pay a membership fee to access a database when choosing a tenant for a property. They can use the database to:
- Search for and screen prospective tenants
- List previous tenants.
Notifying prospective tenants about databases
When you apply to rent a property, the landlord or estate agent must:
- Advise you if they subscribe to a database
- Provide you with the contact details of the database operator.
The details must be in writing and should be included with the Residential Tenancy Application form.
If the landlord or estate agent fi nds details of you on a database, they must advise you in writing, within seven days, of:
- The name of the database and the person who listed the information
- The information held in the database
- How you can check, change or remove the listing (i.e. by contacting the database operator or the person who listed you).
The landlord or estate agent can face significant penalties for not advising you about databases.
Listing a tenant on a database
You can only be listed on a database if:
- You were named on the tenancy agreement
- The agreement has ended
- You breached the agreement and because of the breach, you owe an amount more than the bond, or VCAT has made a possession order.
This applies if you breached your tenancy agreement by:
- Maliciously damaging property
- Endangering neighbours’ safety
- Not paying rent
- Failing to comply with a VCAT order
- Using the property for illegal purposes
- Sub-letting the property without the landlord or estate agent’s consent.
Before listing a tenant on a database, the landlord or estate agent (or the database operator) must notify the tenant in writing,and provide them with 14 days to object.
Updating or removing listings
Listings more than three years old must be removed from a database.
If the landlord or estate agent become aware that information listed is inaccurate or out-of-date, they must notify the database operator within seven days.
The operator must then change or remove the listing within 14 days.
You can apply to VCAT to change or remove inaccurate or out-of-date listings.
Rent in advance
If you pay rent weekly, your landlord cannot ask for more than 14 days’ rent at the beginning of a tenancy. In any other case, provided the rent is $350 a week or less, the landlord cannot ask for more than one month’s rent in advance.
Deposits and charges
A landlord can ask you for a holding deposit. This must be refunded when the tenancy agreement is signed.
If no tenancy agreement is made within 14 days, the money must be refunded by the next business day.
A landlord, agent or other third party cannot charge for:
- Showing you a property
- Issuing a rent payment card
- Establishing or using direct debit facilities
- Making, continuing or renewing a tenancy agreement (this may also be referred to as a premium, bonus, commission or key money).