Tenancy and real estate
Anyone who has dealt with a real estate agent or a landlord would realise that the industry handles a lot of personal information. On a daily basis, real estate agents may work with names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, income levels and places of employment.
Your personal information is likely to be handled by real estate agents when you:
- apply to rent a property
- are put on a tenancy database
- sell or buy a property.
Are real estate agents covered by the Privacy Act?
Generally yes, however some real estate agents are not covered by the Privacy Act because they are considered to be a 'small business' (that is, they have an annual turnover of $3 million or less).
If the Privacy Act does apply to the real estate agent, it only relates to how the agency handles personal information.
How much personal information can a real estate agent collect when I apply for rental accommodation?
Real estate agents covered by the Privacy Act may collect only the personal information necessary to fill a property vacancy. An agent covered by the Privacy Act can collect personal information about an individual if:
- the collection of the personal information is necessary for its functions or activities
- it collects the information by lawful and fair means and not in an unreasonably intrusive way.
The agent can only collect sensitive information (e.g. health or race) if the individual has consented.
What is a tenancy database?
Tenancy databases generally store personal information about individuals relating to defaults or alleged defaults on tenancy agreements, including failures to pay rent or damage to property. This information is usually supplied to tenancy database operators by real estate agents. The information in these databases is then accessed by real estate agents assessing potential tenants.
Are tenancy databases covered by the Privacy Act?
Yes, tenancy databases are covered by the Privacy Act.
How did I get on a database?
There are different reasons why a real estate agent may have put your details on a tenancy database. When you sign an application for a lease, it is important to read the notice about how the agent will use your personal information and whether your information will be disclosed to a tenancy database in certain circumstances.
I am a real estate agent / tenancy database operator. Where can I go for more information?
Other places to go
- See our Real estate FAQs.
- Fair Trading or Consumer Affairs agencies in your State or Territory. Click here for relevant agencies.
- Real Estate Institutes or your local Tenants Union. Click here for Real Estate Institute contact details in your State or Territory.
If you think an agency or organisation has misused your personal information, you can make a complaint to us. To find out more, see Complaints.