This information is a guide and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.

Tenant databases or ‘blacklists’

When you apply for a rental property, rental providers (landlords) and real estate agents sometimes use tenant databases to check if you have been ‘blacklisted’ as a renter by previous rental providers or agents.

What are tenant databases?

Tenant (renter) databases, sometimes referred to as ‘blacklists’, are run by private companies that collect information about renters and make it available to rental providers, real estate agents and renters, usually for a fee.

The law

This page has information about the laws rental providers and database operators (companies) need to follow when using tenant databases, including information on:

  • What you need to be told if a database is used to assess your rental application
  • When a listing can and cannot be made
  • What information you need to be given if a listing is to be made
  • When a listing needs to be removed or changed

It is an offence for a rental provider or database company to list information about you, or keep information about you listed, without following all the laws under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. You can report offences to Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) which can issue an infringement notice on the rental provider or agent if they have failed to follow the law.

Contact Consumer Affairs Victoria

Assessing rental applications

Many rental providers and agents search tenant databases when assessing rental applications. If this is part of the rental provider’s usual process, they must tell you this in writing and give you the name of the databases that could be used and their contact details [section 439C].

If the rental provider finds you are listed on a database, they must tell you, in writing, within 7 days:

  • The name of the database
  • That the database has personal information about you
  • The name of each person who listed the information, if available
  • How and when the listing can be removed or corrected [section 439D]

Note that sections in brackets, such as [section 439C], refer to sections in Victoria’s Residential Tenancies Act 1997. There are links to them near the end of this page.

Restrictions on database listings

When you can be listed

There are only two reasons you can be listed on a tenant database. These are if:

  • You owe the rental provider more money than the bond will cover, or
  • VCAT has given the rental provider a possession order for the property [section 439E]

But you must have also done one of the following, which has caused you to owe more money than the bond will cover or caused VCAT to give a possession order:

  • Breached the rental agreement (lease)
  • Caused serious damage to the property, either deliberately or recklessly [sections 91ZI, 142ZB, 206AQ, 207W]
  • Used the property for an illegal purpose [sections 91ZQ, 142ZI, 206AY, 207ZC]
  • Sub-let or assigned the property to another person without the rental provider’s consent [sections 91ZV, 207ZD]
  • Caused a danger to neighbours, the rental provider, or agent, or a contractor or employee of the rental provider or agent, or a person in a rooming house or caravan park if you lived in that type of accommodation [sections 91ZJ, 142ZC, 206AR, 207X]
  • Were late paying rent by more than 14 days, if you were a renter, or more than 7 days, if you were a resident in a rooming house or caravan park [sections 91ZM, 142ZF, 206AU]
  • Breached a compliance or compensation order made by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) [sections 91ZO, 142ZG, 206AW, 207ZA]

When you cannot be listed

You cannot be listed for any other reason.

You also cannot be listed on a database if:

  • Your name was not on the rental agreement
  • You were given a notice to vacate that VCAT has found to be invalid
  • The rental agreement has not ended [sections 439E, 439F]

Family and personal violence

Even if the rental provider believes there is a lawful reason to list you on a database, it is not lawful for them, or the database operator (company), to list you in these circumstances:

  • Breaching a rental agreement (lease) where the breach was due to an act or circumstance of family or personal violence [section 439E]
  • Where VCAT has made an order terminating or creating a new rental agreement for an affected person where there is family or personal violence [section 439F]
  • If you gave the rental provider a written statement objecting to the listing because the information relates to an act or circumstance of family or personal violence, and evidence of this [section 439F]. Evidence can be a copy or extract of an intervention order, or a letter, report, written statement or other documentary materials from a support, worker, health professional, religious entity and their employees, crisis accommodation provider, Government child protection service, Victoria Police, Australian Federal Police, police service from another state or territory, employees of a school or educational institution, family and friends, the affected person’s employer, or a lawyer

You can take steps to prevent a listing, or to remove an existing listing, no matter when it was listed, where the listing relates to family or personal violence. See the section headed ‘Stopping, removing or changing a listing’ on this page and our Family Violence Protection Tenancy Kit.

COVID-19 reasons – overdue rent

If you breached your agreement by not paying rent, or your rent was overdue, due to a COVID-19 reason while the COVID-19 Emergency Measures were in place, it is not lawful for the rental provider to list you on a database.

The COVID-19 Emergency Measures were in place from 29 March 2020 until 28 March 2021. Even though these Emergency Measures have now ended, if the breach occurred while they were in place this protection is still available to you.

COVID-19 reasons include:

  • It was impossible or impractical for you to pay the rent without suffering severe hardship, or because of exceptional circumstances relating to COVID-19
  • If you were ill, whether or not it was due to COVID-19
  • If you could not comply with your usual duties under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, without suffering severe hardship, because you were complying with laws, directions and recommendations relating to COVID-19 and its control

[COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) Transitional Regulations 2021 – regulation 19]

You can take steps to prevent a listing, or to remove an existing listing, no matter when it was listed, where the listing relates to a COVID-19 reason.  See the ‘Stopping, removing or changing a listing’ section on this page.

Other special circumstances

Even if there is a lawful reason to list you on a database, in some circumstances you can take steps to prevent a listing, or to remove an existing listing, no matter when it was listed. These circumstances include if a listing:

  • Could put your safety at risk
  • Would be unjust: for example, it disproportionately affects your ability to find a future rental property [section 439L, 439M]

See the ‘Stopping, removing or changing a listing’ section on this page.

What must happen before being listed

If a rental provider wants to list you on a database, they must, without charging you a fee:

  • Give you a copy of the information to be listed, or take reasonable steps to give you this information
  • Give you at least 14 days to respond
  • Consider any objections or changes from you [section 439F]

The information to be listed must:

  • Only relate to the breach
  • Indicate the nature of the breach
  • Be accurate, complete and unambiguous [section 439E]

When listings end, or are out of date or inaccurate

A listing can stay on a database for a maximum of 3 years.

It must be removed sooner if it is ‘out of date’ according to the law [sections 439G, 439H, 439K].

A listing must be changed if it is unclear, incomplete or ’inaccurate, while remaining on the database [sections 439G, 439H, 439K].

There are set meanings for ‘out of date’ and ‘inaccurate’ under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.

When a listing is out of date

A listing becomes ‘out of date’ and must be removed if you owe the rental provider more money than the bond and you then pay that money within 3 months of the due date. [sections 439A, 439G, 439H].

Separately, a listing becomes ‘out of date’ and must be removed if VCAT has given the rental provider a possession order, but then cancels that order at a review hearing, [sections 439A, 439G, 439H].

When a listing is inaccurate

If you are listed because you owe more money than the bond, and you then pay that money 3 months or more after the due date, the listing becomes ‘inaccurate’ and must be changed, for example by recording the payment you made. However, it may not be removed [sections 439A, 439G, 439H].

For more information on having a listing removed or changed see the next section on this page, ‘Stopping, removing or changing a listing’.

Stopping, removing or changing a listing

You can take steps to stop a listing being made, or to have an existing listing changed or removed, no matter when it was listed.

You can do this if:

  • There is no lawful reason for the listing. See the sections headed ‘When you can be listed’ and ‘When you cannot be listed’ on this page
  • The information in the listing is inaccurate, incomplete or ambiguous
  • The breach you are being listed for resulted from an act or circumstance of family or personal violence you experienced
  • Having information listed about you could put your safety at risk
  • It would be unjust for you to be listed if it could disproportionately affect your ability to find a future rental property
  • The listing is out of date. See the section headed ‘When listings end or are out of date or inaccurate’ on this page[Sections 439L, 439M)

Tell the rental provider or database company

The first step you should take is to tell the rental provider or database operator (company) not to list your information, or to change or remove a listing about you. Do this in writing.

Stop a listing

If you want to stop a listing being made you have 14 days from the time you are given a copy of the information to object, in writing [section 439F].

Stopping a listing at VCAT

If rental provider or database company wants to continue with the listing after you have objected, you can apply to VCAT to stop the listing.

You can apply against the rental provider or database company if there is no lawful reason for the listing. See the sections headed ‘When you can be listed’ and ‘When you cannot be listed’ on this page.

You can apply against the real estate agent, rental provider or database company if:

  • The breach you are being listed for resulted from an act or circumstance of family or personal violence you experienced
  • It would be unjust for you to be listed if there is a real likelihood the listing would have a disproportionate impact on your ability to access future rental accommodation [sections 439L, 493M]

Removing or changing a listing

If a listing already exists and you want it changed or removed, you should write to the rental provider or database company as soon as you find out about the listing and let them know why it should be changed or removed.

From the time the rental provider becomes aware a listing needs to be changed or removed, they have 7 days to give written notice to the database company telling them to:

  • Change the listing if it is inaccurate, incomplete or ambiguous
  • Remove the listing if it is ‘out of date’
  • Remove the listing if it relates to an act or circumstance of family or personal violence experienced by the person who is listed [Section 439G]

The database operator then has 14 days to change or remove the listing [section 439H].

Removing a listing at VCAT

If you cannot get a listing removed, you can apply to VCAT for orders that it be removed.

You can apply against the rental provider or database company if:

  • There is no lawful reason for the listing. See the section headed ‘Restrictions on database listings’ on this page.
  • You were not given notice of the listing and/or an opportunity to object to it before it was listed
  • The rental provider became aware the listing needed to be removed but did not notify the database company

You can apply against the agent, rental provider or database company if:

  • The breach you are being listed for resulted from an act or circumstance of family or personal violence you experienced
  • It would be unjust for you to be listed if it could disproportionately affect your ability to find a future rental property

You can apply against the database company if:

  • They were given notice to remove the listing but did not do so
  • They have listed information listed about you that could put your safety at risk
  • The listing is more than 3 years old [sections 439L, 493M]

Changing a listing at VCAT

If you cannot get a listing changed, be it either an existing listing or a listing that is about to be made, you can apply to VCAT for orders that it be changed.

You can apply against the rental provider and database company if:

  • There is no lawful reason for the listing. See the section headed ‘Restrictions on database listings’ on this page
  • You were not given notice of the listing and/or an opportunity to object to it before it was listed
  • The rental provider became aware the listing needed to be changed but did not notify the database company

 

You can apply against the database company if having information listed about you could put your safety at risk [section 439L, 439M].

Also see our page Applying to VCAT.

Check if you are listed

What you should know before checking

Most renters are not listed

There is no reason to check a database unless you have reason to believe that you might be listed – for example, if a rental provider has threatened to ‘blacklist’ you. Remember there are only two reasons that you can be listed. See the section headed ‘When you can be listed’ on this page.

Rental providers must tell you if you are listed

You have the right to know if you are listed on a database and rental providers have a duty to tell you.

If your application for a rental property is rejected and you are not told why, you can send a written request to the rental provider asking if they checked any databases, if so which ones, and if they found any listings with information about you. The rental provider must tell you if they find a listing about you [section 439D].

And if a rental provider or database operator (company) wants to blacklist you, they should give you a copy of the information to be listed [section 439F]. See the sections headed ‘Assessing rental applications’ and ‘What must happen before being listed’ on this page.

There are many database companies

There is not just one database that you can check. There are different database companies that have different information.

If you do not know which database company your rental provider uses, you might waste your time and money checking the wrong one.

You might have to pay a fee

The rental provider or database company cannot ask you to pay a fee if this is the first time, or the first time in the last 12 months, they have given you information listed about you [section 439I(4)(c)].

However, you can be asked to pay a fee for any other times you ask to be given a copy of any information listed about you. But the fee cannot be ‘excessive’ [section 439I].

Some database companies provide the information for free, but ask for a lot of your personal information before they give you any information.

Database companies want a lot of your personal details

Most database companies will ask you to give them much more information than they end up giving you.

They often ask for a lot of personal details such as your date of birth, driver’s licence, Medicare or passport number, rental history, employment history and credit card information.

While it may be reasonable to request some identifying information, you do not need give any information you are uncomfortable providing.

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, all you need to do is ask for a copy of the listing in writing and – if requested and if it is not the first time you have asked for the information – pay a fee, which is not allowed to be excessive [section 439I]. The information should then be given to you within 14 days [section 439I].

Some database companies are also debt collectors

Be aware that some database companies are also debt collectors. They may ask for your current address and use this for the purpose of debt collecting.

How to check

We recommend taking these steps.

Step 1

Read the section headed ‘What you should know before checking’ on this page.

Step 2

Send a written request to the rental provider, asking which databases they use and if there are any listings about you. You can send this request to any rental provider that you think has listed you. Or you can send this request to any rental provider that has rejected your rental application. Or you can send to both.

Step 3

If you have no luck getting any information from the rental provider, and you still think you are listed, you can send a written request to a database company to check if you are listed. Before you do, it will help if you find out which database companies the rental provider uses.

Step 4

The rental provider or database company that listed you must give you a copy of any information listed about you within 14 days of receiving your written request [section 439I]. The rental provider that has rejected your rental application must tell you in writing if they find any listings with information about you [section 439D]. See the sections on this page headed ‘Assessing rental applications’ and ‘What must happen before being listed’.

Some database companies

Some database companies are listed below. However, we recommend that you do not contact database companies directly, except as a last resort.

National Tenancy Database and Equifax
TRA (Trading Reference Australia)

Resources

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