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How renters can avoid getting ‘blacklisted’

By Addy Whitburn

Most renters understand that if they seriously damage their property or don’t pay the rent, it’s not going to end well for them. 

But did you know that if you fail to comply with the terms of your lease, you could be listed on a national database that potential landlords can check at any time?

That’s right: landlords have the power to ‘blacklist’ you, but only if:

  • the amount you owe them exceeds the amount of your bond, or
  • a possession order has been made against you

Tenant databases are run by private companies who collect information about tenants and share it with landlords for a fee. Most real estate agents also subscribe to at least one of these databases.

The largest tenant and public record database is the National Tenancy Database (NTD).

Used for both residential and commercial property, the NTD contains basic tenant information, such as public record and tenant history files. Landlords use the NTD to assess the reliability of a potential tenant when reviewing a rental application.

As a renter, what else should I know?

Persa Kapsali, a department manager at Ray White Southbank, says it’s not only landlords who lodge complaints with the NDT; utility providers can also blacklist problem customers.

“I’ve come across some renters that haven’t paid phone bills for months and months. And if you can’t afford to pay your phone bill, you’ll struggle to pay rent.”

However, things have to be pretty extreme for a third party to lodge a complaint. The amount you owe a landlord – in rental payments or damages – must exceed the amount of your bond.

If a landlord or utility provider intends to list you on one of the tenancy databases, they must advise you in writing, or at least make a reasonable attempt to advise you, before doing so.

Once you’ve received a letter of intent, Kapsali says there are a few things you can do to stop your name being added to the database.

“If a potential landlord tells you that you’ve been blacklisted, you can take steps to remove or change the listing by paying the amount you owe,” she says.

“If the amount you owe is paid within three months of the due date, you are eligible to have your name removed from the database. If you take longer than three months to pay what you owe, your listing can be changed to ‘inaccurate’ but it can’t be removed.”

How long will I be blacklisted for?

Information on the blacklist is kept for a maximum of three years.

How can I find out if I’ve been blacklisted?

A property manager will check to see if you’re listed on a tenancy database before giving the green light to your tenancy application. If they find out that you’re blacklisted, they should let you know within seven days, and provide you with information on which agent listed you, as well as their reasons for doing so.

You can then ask the agent who listed you to provide the information the database holds on you. They are obliged to provide this information free of charge, within 14 days.

Alternatively, you can find out whether you’ve been blacklisted by contacting the databases directly. Most of the companies, however, charge a fee for providing this information.

As a landlord, why should I use the database?

As of 2016, a NTD tenant check cost $13.98.

In Kapsali’s eyes, it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind – especially when you’re not quite sure about a potential tenant.

“At the end of the day, your property is your investment, and for $14, a NTD tenant check is definitely worth it,” she says.

“It would be ideal if everyone used it. To have all agencies working together to protect landlords would be great.”

Kapsali says a lot of the tenants on the database are repeat offenders, but most tenants do the right thing.

“We manage around 2300 properties in Melbourne’s inner north, and we might lodge one or two complaints a year.”

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