: Reform to Residential Tenancy Databases 
in Victoria

Reform to Residential Tenancy Databases 
in Victoria

Catherine Miller

The Residential Tenancy Amendment Act 2010 (Vic) came into effect on 1 September 2011. One significant aspect of the amendments is the regulation of residential tenancy databases. These databases are run by private companies to store information regarding tenants’ rental history. Access to information is available to subscribers, who are usually real estate agents. Agents commonly check a database for records relating to applicants for rental properties. When applying for a rental property, prospective tenants are often asked to consent to the agent providing personal information to a database operator. Examples of tenant database companies are the Tenant Information Centre of Australia and National Tenancy Database.

Previously, databases were subject to the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) but were not regulated by the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic). Being listed on a database can seriously impact a tenant’s ability to access rental accommodation. In some cases, listings result in homelessness. The amendments address a number of problems created by the unregulated use of databases. In particular, they impose mechanisms for tenants to be notified about a listing, restrict when a tenant can be listed, and impose a time limit on the life of listings. These amendments affect tenants and residents of rooming houses, caravans and Part 4A parks.

A tenant may apply to VCAT for an order prohibiting a landlord or database operator from listing information about a tenant, requiring the landlord or database operator to amend information contained on the residential tenancy database, or requiring a landlord or database operator to remove information. The tenant may apply to VCAT regarding listings made before the commencement of the amendments.

A fact sheet regarding Tenancy Databases is available on the Tenants Union of Victoria website.

CATHERINE MILLER is a Trainee Solicitor with the Tenants Union of Victoria.

(2011) 36(4) AltLJ 286
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in Victoria

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