Did you know you can be secretly blacklisted as a tenant?

You can be blacklisted as a renter without even knowing it.

Key points:

In fact, being put on one of these tenancy databases could mean you’re blocked from renting for years.

These databases are run by private companies and accessed by landlords and agents who report so-called “bad tenants”.

Many renters are reluctant to share their story for fear of backlash or shame.

Amanda’s story

Amanda* is a mother with a large family. At the end of her lease, she and her partner looked for a new place to rent, but were rejected over and over.

It turned out they were secretly put on a rental blacklist.

“I was probably looking at three to four houses a week. There was only me applying, there was no-one else and I was getting knocked back so many times,” she said.

“I didn’t have a clue why. I thought it might have been I had too many kids. I thought it might have been my income. I really didn’t know.

“It was very stressful. I didn’t get a house for six or seven months.

“I was living with my mum who only had a two-bedroom house and there was me and my six kids. We were just all over the shop.

“I didn’t know where I was going to go or how long it was going to take to find a new house.

“I was declined, declined, declined … day after day.

“I reckon I would have been homeless [without my mum].

“Then one [agent] was actually very honest with me. She said: ‘They put you on [a database] for rent arrears’, so I took [my previous agent to court].”

People with arms folded

Amanda did not owe any rent at the end of her lease.

“[The previous agent] had to tell me by law. I was told nothing. She didn’t even send me an email,” Amanda said.

“I was very upset and cranky. She could have at least told me I was put on there or I could have worked out something with her. But she didn’t do that, she went behind my back.

“She wasn’t very fair at all.

“Now I’m very happy with my new real estate [agent].

“I was just honest and upfront about what happened. I outlined that [the blacklisting] wasn’t for rent arrears.

“She gave me a second chance because no other real estate company was going to give me a chance.

“She signed me up for a six-month lease. She was very honest and willing to give me a go.”

*Not her real name

Overview of house

Here are some ways to avoid being blacklisted

What can I be blacklisted for?

In all states except the Northern Territory, there are tight rules about how a tenant can be blacklisted to stop malicious listings.

Generally, you can only be listed:

  • at the end of a lease AND
  • when you owe rent that’s more than the total of the bond OR
  • as the result of a court or tribunal order

In Victoria, breaches of your rental agreement, such as malicious property damage or endangering neighbours’ safety, can get you blacklisted.

In Queensland, objectionable behaviour or repeated lease breaches may also get you blacklisted.

In the Northern Territory, there are moves to provide more protections for renters. But, until that happens, the system is unregulated and there are broad reasons for being blacklisted, including overdue rent or breaching the lease agreement.

If you’re in the NT, you may not even know you’ve been listed, there are few ways to appeal and no legal time limit on how long you’ll be on it.

NT Consumer Affairs says to avoid being blacklisted you should pay your rent on time and not damage the property.

How will I know I’ve been listed?

In all states except the NT, landlords and agents must tell you in writing before they blacklist you, allowing you time to appeal against the decision.

Even when you’re applying for a place, you must be told whether a database will be used and when a listing about you comes up.

In some states, there are fines if landlords or agents don’t follow these rules.

How can I appeal against a listing?

Depending on your state, you can appeal against a listing if it’s incorrect, out of date or unjust.

In most cases, listings of more than three years must be removed.

You could raise an objection with the agent or landlord or relevant appeals body, such as a court or tribunal.

Do I really need to pay to check my record?

Database companies usually charge a fee but tenant advocates say you shouldn’t bother with them unless you have a reasonable suspicion you’re on a list and know exactly which database you might be on.

“There’s no real urgency to contact the database operators,” said Mark O’Brien, chief executive of the Tenants Union of Victoria.

“The system’s not supposed to work that the tenant does the checking, the system is supposed to work that estate agents tell you if you’re listed.”

In New South Wales, you’re entitled to obtain a listing from the person who listed you free of charge.

For Lease signs outside an apartment building.

Who are the database operators?

You probably don’t know these names but they might already know yours.

Operator Name Description
Trading Reference Australia Checks for defaulting tenants and runs the online rental application system, tApp.
TICA Australian company that checks tenancy history and offers police background checks and insurance products.
National Tenancy Database Run by American-based company Equifax, this company scans bankruptcy, court and company directorship records.
Tenancy Check Also run by Equifax and checks data from courts and tribunals and private databases.
DataKatch Checks for defaulting tenants and searches courts, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn.
Barclay MIS Debt-collection company that checks for defaulting and fraudulent tenants.

souce: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-04/rental-blacklist-tenancy-database-should-i-be-worried/9505712

New year, new home loan: A guide to refinancing in 2018

Health, friendship and happiness – we assess almost every aspect of our lives in the new year, so why not re-evaluate the loans that are financing our homes?

It’s easy to adopt a set and forget policy when it comes to your finances, but it could be that your home loan is lacking relevance to your current situation. A home loan is probably the biggest finance product you’re likely to purchase in your lifetime, so it makes absolute sense to check in every now and then to make sure it works for you – and what better time than in the new year?

Here’s why a home loan health check could be just what the doctor ordered for 2018.

Forest Lodge home

There’s no point giving more money than you need to your bank. Picture: realestate.com.au/buy

Interest rates are low, for now

REA Chief Economist Nerida Conisbee says searching for a lower interest rate makes sense at any time: the lower your interest rates, the lower the repayments will be. You could knock years off your loan, not to mention saving thousands in interest.

With interest rates “unlikely to rise anytime soon”, it is an especially opportune time to refinance.

“Even though the RBA is unlikely to increase the cash rate any time soon, mortgage rates continue to rise, driven by a lot of other factors including rising wholesale costs and regulators urging banks not to lend too much,” Conisbee says.

Forest Lodge home

What special home loan features could be worth looking into before there is a rate rise? Picture: realestate.com.au/buy

Loans with special features, such as flexible repayments, will help you to pay off your loan faster in a low interest rate environment. So if your home loan doesn’t currently offer this, it could be worth looking into.

“Depending on the loan agreement with your lender, while rates are low, it might be worthwhile paying off a little more of your mortgage than necessary as this is likely the best it will be for quite some time,” Conisbee adds.

“For those on interest only loans, and nearing the end of their interest-only period, it’s an especially good time to shop around.”

The economy has reason to raise rates, eventually

While Conisbee says the banks are unlikely to raise interest rates anytime soon, it will likely happen at some time this year.

“China, the US and Japan are our three biggest trading partners so when their economic growth is strong, it increases demand for our goods and services,” Conisbee explains.

“While China’s economic outlook isn’t expected to be vastly different in 2018, it is the US that is really expected to see vastly different conditions over the next two years. The US economy is growing quickly and this is increasing demand for Australian exports. This will grow our economy and give more reason to raise rates in 2018.”

If you’re thinking of refinancing, it could be worth getting a jump on a deal before this happens.

Investors could find their silver lining

“A lot of banks are already moving interest rates up, particularly for investor loans,” says Conisbee.

“This might be due to a number of events that occurred last year. There have also been additional taxes on offshore investors in many states, as well as cuts to benefits off the plan buyers enjoyed such as stamp duty concessions. Even negative gearing wasn’t left alone, and while the changes thus far have been fairly moderate, bigger changes could be on the cards if a new government comes into power,” she says.

“And in some states, there’s just less supply and fewer apartments on the market,” she adds.

“There are likely to be far fewer investors in the market this year, so it would pay to shop around, given it would be more competitive for banks to find borrowers,” Conisbee says.


Source: https://www.realestate.com.au/advice/your-2018-home-loan-health-checklist/

ACCC says mortgage competition ‘less than vigorous’

ACCC chairman Rod Sims: "We do not often see the big four banks vying to offer borrowers the lowest interest rates."
ACCC chairman Rod Sims: “We do not often see the big four banks vying to offer borrowers the lowest interest rates.” Sean Davey

National Australia Bank says it welcomes home loan customers calling to seek discounts to their current mortgage rates, after the competition regulator criticised the major banks for charging higher interest rates to existing customers as they try to lure new ones with big discounts that lack transparency.

NAB’s chief operating officer Antony Cahill said four out of every five customers are paying a rate below its current standard variable rate and that NAB had proactively contacted more than 300,000 customers over the past year to discuss potential discounts.

“This is indicative of a competitive market, and we continually review the setting of interest rates, our policies and products to ensure we provide the most suitable offering for our customers’ needs,” Mr Cahill said.

Banks’ insistence that mortgage markets are competitive contrasts with the view of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. In a 56-page interim report on pricing in the $1.6 trillion residential mortgage market, it described “less-than-vigorous price competition”. It said the pricing behaviour of each of the big four banks plus Macquarie “appears more consistent with ‘accommodating’ a shared interest in avoiding the disruption of mutually beneficial pricing outcomes, rather than consistently vying for market share by offering the lowest interest rates”.

The ACCC said that over the two years to June last year, existing borrowers on standard variable interest rate mortgages at the big four were paying up to 32 basis points more on average than new borrowers.

The average discount provided on variable rate loans over the same period was 78 to 139 basis points off the relevant headline interest rate.

“The discounting by the big banks lacks transparency and it’s almost impossible for customers to obtain accurate interest rate comparisons without investing a great deal of time and effort,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

“But the potential savings from these discounts are immense.”

Treasurer responds

Treasurer Scott Morrison said “what the ACCC has found today is not unlike what is found for the big energy companies. Complexity is used against the customer. What we need is greater transparency, more competitive pressures, and more power to the customer, whether its of banks or big energy companies. I want banking customers to get the best deal.”

The government was moving to “make sure bank customers have all the power in the relationship” by introducing the open banking regime, comprehensive credit reporting and opening up the market for customer-owned banks, he added.

Westpac also pointed to open banking as a policy that would improve customer choice and hence the level of competition.

“With so much choice, it can be difficult for customers to meaningfully compare across the wide range of products and services on the market,” a spokesperson said, and Westpac “supported the open data regime in banking to help facilitate better customer outcomes”.

The ACCC’s investigation involved teams from the regulator scrutinising internal bank documents. The report highlighted references to “not wanting to ‘lead the market down’ and to have rates that are ‘mid-ranked’ and to ‘maintain orderly market conduct'”. At one bank in 2015, the ACCC said documents prepared by senior executives had “explicit references to ‘encouraging rational market conduct’, ‘maintaining orderly market conduct’ and maintaining ‘industry conduct'”.

The Productivity Commission also recently criticised the major banks for acting like an oligopoly and found price competition was lacking across the market.

The ACCC report, released on Thursday, also said average interest rates paid by borrowers for basic or ‘no frills’ loans are often higher than for standard loans at the same bank, and that bank communications about pricing provide an incomplete explanation of the drivers of changing rates.

Comparison site RateCity said customers who shopped around would get a better deal. The average variable mortgage interest rate for an owner occupier paying principal and interest is 4.31 per cent, while the lowest variable rate is 3.39 per cent, it says.

“The market doesn’t lack competition – it lacks competitive behaviour from the establishment,” said RateCity spokesperson Sally Tindall. “It also lacks a willingness from home owners to switch away from the big four. Customers of the big four banks need to understand that there are lenders lining up to offer you more competitive rates on your home loan.”

The ACCC report also said banks were very sensitive to adverse publicity around interest rate increases. Documents at one bank show staff recommending deferring any increase “until a ‘trigger event’ occurred (either an [cash rate] change or a rate change by a big four bank) due to concerns about adverse publicity,” the report says.

But it also criticises the quality of bank communications. When banks explain changes to headline interest rates, “those reasons are not always disclosed in the media releases or other public statements accompanying the rate changes,” the ACCC said. “Instead some public communications focus on one factor, or a subset of the factors, influencing the decision to change rates.”

Mr Sims said big banks don’t see smaller rivals as much of a threat. “Their behaviour is not affecting the big banks,” he said. “That was a surprise finding. They are not on the competitive radar of the big four banks, who see themselves as a market in and of themselves.”

The ACCC’s residential mortgage price inquiry came after a referral from Mr Morrison in last year’s budget. Mr Morrison also asked the ACCC to monitor whether banks would lift mortgage pricing to pass through the costs of the $6 billion bank levy, introduced in the same budget.

The ACCC said the four major banks and Macquarie stated that “no specific decisions have been made” to adjust residential mortgage prices in response to the levy.

A final report will be issued after June 30.

Source: http://www.afr.com/business/banking-and-finance/financial-services/accc-says-mortgage-competition-lessthanvigorous-20180314-h0xhj7