Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 23 June 2011) . . Page.. 2345 ..
result in the lessor being left out of pocket once the bond has been released to the lessor or where the ACAT orders that the tenancy be terminated.
Secondly, it is essential that tenancy databases are regulated to ensure the integrity of the information listed in the databases. This is necessary not only for the protection of tenants but also to ensure that tenancy databases are a reliable and legitimate risk minimisation tool for lessors and agents when checking tenants’ rental histories.
This bill ensures the integrity of information contained in tenancy databases by requiring that listings not only be for serious breaches of the tenancy agreement but that any listings must be accurate, complete, unambiguous and relate only to the breach.
Finally, the collection, storage and use of personal information by real estate agents and database operators are subject to the national privacy principles as set out in the commonwealth Privacy Act 1988. The national privacy principles place obligations on real estate agents and database operators to keep only personal information that is accurate, complete and up to date. The national privacy principles also provide a right of access for a tenant to his or her personal information held by real estate agents and database operators.
Although the national privacy principles provide some protections against the potential misuse of tenants’ personal information, there is no requirement to put a tenant on notice about a listing or proposed listing of the tenant’s personal information in a tenancy database. Therefore, under the national privacy principles by themselves, a person may only come to suspect that he or she is listed in a tenancy database after many unsuccessful attempts to secure a tenancy. He or she may then be put to the stress, inconvenience and expense of having to lodge several requests to access his or her personal information with a number of database operators. This would be needed to establish, first of all, whether he or she is listed in a tenancy database at all and, if so, which database his or her information is stored in.
These issues were addressed by the government through reforms introduced into the Assembly in 2005 that introduced part 6A of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. Part 6A included a requirement that a former tenant be given written notice about a proposed listing and a reasonable opportunity to review the information to be listed.
This bill strengthens those existing protections for tenants in the ACT in relation to tenancy databases. It does this firstly by prescribing the breaches of the tenancy agreement by a former tenant that may give rise to a listing. Secondly, the bill requires that any listings be accurate, complete and unambiguous and that information not be out of date. The bill also sets out how a person may access his or her personal information in a tenancy database. These provisions are consistent with the commonwealth national privacy principles.
The bill also ensures that information is not listed indefinitely by requiring that information be removed after three years or any lesser time prescribed under the national privacy principles.