Page 3635 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 23 August 2011

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Residential Tenancies (Databases) Amendment Bill 2011

Debate resumed from 23 June 2011, on motion by Mr Corbell:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (10.34): The Canberra Liberals will support this bill, which seeks to implement model uniform tenancy database provisions as agreed by the Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs. The amendments replace existing provisions with the model uniform provisions relating to the compilation and management of tenancy databases. In doing so, the bill seeks to place stricter controls on the gathering, management and use of data that is held and available nationally relating to tenants, in sympathy with the commonwealth’s privacy laws.

It will place more administrative burden on real estate agents, but will protect more strongly the private information that is gathered about tenants. This includes making tenants aware of the database and whether information about them is to be entered on the database, giving tenants access to information held about them so as to review and consider whether to take future action to object, amend or remove information from the database, giving tenants the right to seek orders from the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal about entries made about them on the database and restricting the time and types of entries that can be made to the database.

The provisions commence on the minister’s written notice or after six months, whichever occurs first. I note that the provisions do not apply to residential tenancy databases kept by an entity, including the housing commissioner, for use only within the entity. So this would cover locally held databases by individual real estate agencies. The question arises as to whether a tenancy database held by one franchisee to a particular real estate agency brand is available to other franchisees of the same brand. The bill appears to be silent on this issue, so the impact in this area will need to be monitored.

The scrutiny of bills committee, in its report No 40, called on the minister to respond to three matters. The minister has responded to them. Firstly, the committee makes the observation that there is no apparent means by which a person, who has listed information about a tenant in the database, will be informed that their name or other personal information about them may be released to the tenant. The government, in its response, noted that the purpose was to enable a tenant to track down the author of the entity easily and without undue expense. The government also responded that it is open to the lessor or agent not to make the entry in the database in the first place. I accept the government’s explanation of this matter.

Secondly, there is uncertainty about how it might be determined that a tenant owes the lessor more than the bond amount other than might be ruled in an order of the ACAT. The government’s response more or less acknowledged that dilemma, identifying an application to the ACAT as an option available to the lessor or agent to be sure that their claim is correct.

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