Privacy issues when applying to rent a house in Sydney

To make an application to rent a house or flat in Sydney, applicants are asked to give tons of details, including bank account details. As they also have your full name, date of birth, current address etc., it means that they could, in theory, have access to your bank account. It’s more than a privacy issue - it’s a security issue.


Personally, I find it quite onerous - the amount of information you have to supply to secure a rental property. I had to actually show my landlord that I had enough savings for one year’s worth of rent before my application was approved!

We are actually about to start a research project into the experiences of renting in the Australian market and I will keep the issues of privacy and security in mind, so we make sure we dig a bit deeper on it to find out what different experiences are. Thanks for the reminder!


The other side to this, from the landlord’s point of view, is that there will always be the chance that the tenant spoils it for everyone by ending up owing rent and trashing the place.
Unfortunately you can’t accept anyone at face-value so detailed checks are essential.

I agree with the Landlord’s point of view. The landlord HAS to by law have the premises in tip top condition for the prospective tenant. Water tight, clean, fire alarms that are maintained every year, pest inspections annually, premises insured, rates paid, water rates up to date. A landlord may ask for bank account details, employment references, just to know the tenant is a reliable and, an honest type of person able to pay the rent on time. The Landlord cannot do anything with the tenant’s bank details - he can only rely on the tenant’s honesty at the beginning, at the time of signing the lease. My last tenant acquired two dogs, against the lease conditions, moved her relatives into the house without asking me along with guinea pigs and birds in cages. The dogs were kept inside and consequently ruined the living room carpet. Her bond covered the rent owed, and water used (three times the neighbourhood average). However, she had the place professionally cleaned - flea and vermin proofed, carpets cleaned - so I did not pressure for the carpet to be replaced. Remember Mr Tenant, if you find the prospect of renting onerous, think for once what it must be like to hand over your property that you are paying off most likely (the rent probably doesn’t cover the house loan) to a stranger - if only tenants treated the rental property as they would their own, life would be sweet.

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Well, first of all, I’m not Mr Tenant, I’m comfortable middle-class Mrs Landlord. I have a property that I rent out in Sydney as well as owning elsewhere, so I’m not talking like someone who dumps on property owners - I’m talking like someone who believes we have to have ethical standards both ways. While I sympathise with your experience, I don’t believe this warrants invading privacy to the extent real estate agents do (and in fact, it obviously doesn’t work - I’m sure the person with two dogs has a very healthy bank account and nice references). As for properties being kept at a high standard, obviously your property isn’t in Sydney, because I have accompanied my daughter to view houses which are a disgrace while they’re asking a ridiculous rent that they know people have to pay. Greedy landlords and sloppy tenants are both bad news.


Out of curiosity, as landlords, what do you think will improve your ability to choose a tenant?

I can speak from the other side of the fence - I wish I could have a chat to the owner instead of the agent when I start a tenancy, I wish I knew what the previous tenant’s experience was like, I wish I could chat to the prospective neighbours…

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If your property is in the hands of an estate agent, it’s up to the agent to check out the tenants, so the integrity of the estate agent and their staff is important. You can lay down certain criteria - no pets, a limited number of people in the space - but who knows? I remember a friend years back renting out her beautiful house, and feeling uncomfortable about the renter having young kids, but the house was immaculate when she returned. Then she rented to a trendy cashed-up couple who had two large dogs who damaged floor boards (peeing regularly near the back door) and the doors of her lovely federation house. So it’s a gamble. Landlord insurance?? No pets? (even though I love pets myself).
Talking to neighbours sounds good. Talking to previous tenants may not be good. And yes, why can’t prospective tenants talk to owners? This might help both sides.

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Here’s our report into the rental market for those interested.

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@msanderson08 Fair point that tenants are often troublesome and that maintaining a rental property isn’t easy. However, whenever I rented (which was for quite a few years, though years ago now) I can’t recall ever having one pest inspection, and none of the places could possibly be described as being in “tip top” condition - far from it! You’ve described the ideal list of actions for a landlord, but it’s far too common and easy for landlords/agents to simply not provide a decent level of service (just as it’s also easy for tenants to be a royal pain in the ****).

I think the problem is that most cases in the Australian market, people buy an investment property for the long term capital gain, and regard the provision of a rental service in the meantime as an inconvenient necessity. In other countries where renting is the norm, rental services are often provided by large companies whose business centres on the provision of rental services. No doubt that model has its own problems, but we may need to transition towards it all the same as renting becomes the norm here too.