A new CHOICE report reveals the increasing dominance of third-party rental platforms and their discriminatory impacts on prospective tenants.
A national CHOICE survey has uncovered serious consumer harms from platforms that demand excessive personal data and open the door for discrimination and other harmful practices. Here’s some highlight from the survey:
And here’s some case studies showing how this issue is playing out, and the negative impacts for both tenants and landlords:
“My first winter in this property, my
electric oven/stovetop just stopped
working. I checked fuses and asked
my builder neighbour to have a look,
just to see if there was a simple issue. We
couldn’t find any, so I contacted the agent, and
was told to fill in a form via their “maintenance
portal” to investigate the issue. I did so, and was
accused of damaging the property, and that if
it was found to be my actions that caused the
problem, I would be liable in full. Meanwhile, my
local agent had alerted the owners, who were
distressed at my not having means to cook etc.
– and approved a replacement appliance that
was ordered online and delivered (during
lockdown). The oven sat on the porch for over
two weeks as I tried to contact the appropriate
person via the “portal”, only to be told they had
lost the initial request… Finally an electrician
was sent to install the oven, and he discovered
that there was a loose connection on the
original, which could have been fixed in minutes,
had my first contact been acted on. Three weeks
of my not being able to cook, hundreds of dollars
in unnecessary cost for the new appliance, fees
spent on the electrician and portal access – no
“We were given no choice with
1Form, because the property agent
would not accept applications any
other way. But I felt uncomfortable
sending them details of our investments, cash
in bank, more than one identity verifiers, utility
bills, marriage certificate, motor vehicle
registration details, tenant ledger report,
references, copy of pension card, and so on.
I felt we could easily be identified by simply
showing our photo ID on driver’s licences.”
CHOICE is now calling on federal and state governments take the following steps to ensure that
renters are appropriately protected from the risks created by RentTech:
- Reform the Privacy Act
- Federal inquiry into automated decision-making (ADM)
- Economy-wide ban on unfair trading
- Modernise state and territory residential tenancies acts
You can find more information on our recommendations, case studies plus detailed results and survey methodology in the RentTech report (PDF).
Or watch this short video about the issues with RentTech:
Read about the investigation:
Show your support and sign the petition for stronger privacy protections:
I noted the interview on the ABC News channel. Thank you CHOICE for your efforts in addressing this burgeoning problem.
I agree that there is a pressing need to rein in this rampant “snooping” by companies that have no business amassing such piles of information about individuals. Our son recently moved to another city and needed to rent an apartment, having never rented before. All estate agents referred him to third party websites, which supposedly share data between themselves, but in reality he was obliged to supply the data to each of the websites. Their requests for information did vary slightly. The result was that he was required to supply almost as much information about himself and our family as was required from him to obtain his security clearance! What business does an agent for an estate agent have collecting all this information! At the end of the day all they are providing is bricks and mortar and a roof for which they are taking a bond of 6 weeks rent. I also am a landlord and have never required this amount of information about any of my tenants. This is “due diligence” taken to extremes. And how long will this information be held on file and be searchable by whom? How long until it gets stolen and onsold?
Is this an exaggeration? If not, please provide proof.
It may be difficult for any to respond. Especially if it’s an online process that would require a live screen capture of each step, before deleting the personal information provided. Perhaps it’s something a Choice investigative team could attempt, if there is value in knowing more?@BrendanMays
Referring to the experiences of those in the immediate family who are renters. The use of a third party to handle the rental application, including downloading an App and creating an account has been a common experience going back at least 4-5 years in their experience. In addition one needed to provide employer details which were also checked, including income.
Some may suggest the latest requests go too far. The providers appear to evade accountability through the T&Cs one must accept in registering an account, prior to filling in an application. Once your account is established the full extent of what one is about to hand over becomes apparent. How an application that is only partly answered is processed is an unknown. It’s not a transparent process. It’s not evident if what is asked is required or included by regulation in each state or territory.
The last time I rented it was a paper self carbon form. I don’t think I even needed to provide a copy of my DL. The agent relied on contacting my employer to verify my name and employment status. Pay details were confidential. The upfront bond payment secured the rental. Rent was always paid in advance. It‘s difficult to accept that aside from the option of electronic payment by EFT, or BPay direct to the agent, it needs to be so different today? It’s also not quite a decade since I was on the other side as a landlord.
The Choice article states “Third-party rental platforms provide landlords and real estate agents with tools to screen prospective tenants based on their income, employment status, lifestyle, and other criteria and renters have few legal protections from exploitative and unfair automated systems.”
The requirements for a Government security clearance are included on this page.
Even if the Choice article has omitted details of some requested information, the information requested for a security clearance is way more intrusive.
Most processes become more difficult over time and often with good reason. Those who think that the information requested when making a rental application is over the top can thank the small percentage of tenants doing the wrong thing and government regulations for making the task more onerous.
When we were looking for a rental18 months ago some agents required applications to be completed on 3rd party apps BEFORE we could go and view their properties. So they had our information even when we didn’t want the property after viewing because they were unsuitable.
Also concerned about my personal information being hacked from the apps. Already been caught up in the Latitude Financial hack.
Welcome to the community @Sboxall1062.
Around 1 in every 3 Australians live in rental accommodation. Leases typically expire after 12 months. That’s an incredible revelation. Even when a home is up for sale the open houses only request visitors provide their name and contact details on entry. Prospective buyers are not required to provide any further details unless they are making an offer, the details of which are set out on standard format contracts.
The point the poster made was that it was “almost as much…” Given that in the security clearance case, the applicant may have access to extremely sensitive national defence information, the level of intrusion there is understandable.
In the case of the renter, they need to demonstrate that they can pay the rent, and undertake to look after the property; nothing more. The employment status and job type along with their rental history is relevant, but only as an upfront check. Once a tenancy is agreed, the data should not be retained. It’s none of the landlord’s business who the tenant’s relatives are, or what they do. Renters are not serfs of the landlord, they enter into a commercial relationship, with mutual rights and responsibilities.
Just as there are bad tenants, there are bad landlords and bad real estate agents. The most troubling aspect of these rental “vetting” apps and platforms, is that they may fall below the threshold for privacy legislation, and give them a free pass. Only they know how well protected their systems are, and in all probability, it will not be solid protection.