Victoria’s register of dodgy landlords has come under fire from advocates for only having 16 names on the list despite running for more than two years.
In March 2021 the state government launched a database of rental providers who have broken an offence under the Tenancy Act, promising to even the playing field between renters and landlords.
The real estate industry has long used secret “tenancy databases”, which are kept by private companies who charge a fee to agents to list tenants or look up their rental history.
When the “landlord blacklist” was launched, the premier, Daniel Andrews, said it would help relieve the power imbalance, as private companies keep lists of tenants.
“Landlords and agents have been keeping blacklists of tenants for years,” Andrews said.
“So it’s only fair that we keep our own blacklist for dodgy landlords and agents. This way, both sides of the agreement can be accountable for their actions.”
But the secretary of the Renters And Housing Union, Sean Budd, said having only 16 names on the list showed it wasn’t working.
“Quite often, bad landlord behaviour just doesn’t even make it to Vcat,” Budd said.
“There are reasons for that. [Firstly] the Vcat system is overwhelmed and secondly, most renters don’t uphold their rights – whether that’s because they’re fearful of retaliation like getting evicted, or they don’t know that they have those rights.”
The rental non-compliance register displays the details of providers who have become the subject of a Vcat compliance or compensation order – with their details remaining on the register for three years. It does not stop landlords from continuing to rent out their properties.
“What does a bad landlord list really do for renters?” Budd said.
“The bad tenants list, for instance, prevents renters from getting a home. But most renters don’t even know who their landlord is, they’re probably not aware of their name.”
Budd said if the government wanted a fairer playing field, the tenant list would also be managed by Consumer Affairs.
Victorian Greens renters’ rights spokesperson, Gabrielle de Vietri, called on the government to “address the power imbalance between renters and landlords in Victoria”.
“Renters often face sub-par rental standards and unfair rent hikes and evictions as a result of dodgy landlords,” de Vietri said.
“And sadly the only way to put that landlord on notice is to enter a time-consuming and costly Vcat process.”
But a spokesperson for the government defended the list, saying the 2021 changes, which the list was part of, made renting fairer.
“We expect all landlords, agents and rental providers to follow the law – every person deserves a safe and secure roof over their head,” the spokesperson said.
“We take breaches of the Residential Tenancies Act seriously and investigate and work with renters and rental providers where necessary.”