Darwin Community Legal Service has issued an urgent warning to tenants in the Northern Territory about the potential for real estate agents to share their personal and private information with commercial database companies.

These companies aggregate and cross reference information from other databases to create searchable databases, which can include;

– Drivers licence details
– Passport details
– Visa/residency status
– Current and previous addresses
– Applications for rental properties
– Information on past and current tenancy agreements
– Credit checks
– Legal history (court appearances, bankruptcies etc)

Most real estate companies use these databases to screen applicants for rental properties.

Australia’s largest Residential Tenancy Database company, TICA states on its website that it holds over 7 million tenancy records. Information is commercially traded, TICA’s website states;

“Trying to locate a person? TICA provides an exclusive service to Commercial, Mercantile and Skip Tracing Agents to assist in locating people.”

Equifax, a US based database company offering services to real estate agencies in Australia claims on its website that it;

“organises, assimilates and analyses data on more than 820 million consumers worldwide.”

Real estate agents collaborate through these database companies to create “blacklists” of tenants that have allegedly breached the terms of their lease. Blacklists are poorly regulated in the NT. Some database companies provide a tenant monitoring service which inform real estate agents if their tenant makes an application to lease another property.

Solicitor Abhishek Jain, who leads Darwin Community Legal Service’s Tenants Advice Service sees the direct impacts of Residential Tenancy Databases on a daily basis.

“The handling of personal and private information by real estate agencies is inconsistent and poorly regulated in the NT. Before handing over information to a Real Estate Agent you should ask for a copy of their privacy policy,” he said.

Darwin Community Legal Service’s Principal Solicitor Nicki Petrou said,

“database companies are trading in personal and private information for commercial gain and the people most obviously being impacted at the moment are tenants.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND INTERVIEWS CALL (08) 8982 1111

Darwin Community Legal Service is holding a lunchtime public information stall at the Raintree park end of the Smith Street Mall on Friday 15th September between 11.00 and 2.00 PM.

Early results from a survey being conducted by Darwin Community Legal Service show that 37% of tenants are unaware of Residential Tenancy Databases. The survey is part of an ongoing study of the experiences of renters in the Northern Territory.

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