Darwin Community Legal Service (DCLS) has called upon the Attorney General, the Hon Natasha Fyles, to urgently review the Residential Tenancies Act (NT) to improve protections for tenants against aggressive real estate practices and commercial database companies.

The Northern Territory is the only jurisdiction in Australia which has not tightened laws to protect tenants against unfair practices used by some real estate companies, who provide tenants private and personal information to third party database companies.

These companies collate data to create ‘blacklists’ of tenants, effectively banning them from the rental market. In the NT there is no legislated timeframe regarding the length of time a person remains on a blacklist, in all other jurisdictions the maximum period is 3 years.

DCLS Tenants Advice Service Solicitor Abhishek Jain said, “we see a growing number of people blacklisted for unfair or frivolous reasons. Being blacklisted for life is a harsh punishment for what are sometimes small transgressions.”

The most important areas for reform relate to the introduction of an independent umpire that tenants can go to if they feel they have been unfairly blacklisted, setting a maximum amount of time a person can be blacklisted and establishing a formal process for notifying people who have been blacklisted.

Weak tenancy laws in the NT have contributed to a “wild west” situation where many tenants are afraid to stand up for their rights.

A survey of tenants released today by DCLS shows that 36% of respondents sometimes felt bullied or intimidated by their landlord or property manager and 43% of respondents had agreed to expenses (such as cleaning costs or repairs) that they did not feel were fair.

Abhishek Jain added, “there needs to be an independent umpire that tenants can go to if they feel that they have been unfairly blacklisted. This is the case everywhere in Australia except the NT.”

For interviews call Solicitor Abhishek Jain 08 8982 1111

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