Sarah Ashworth, with children Kai, 6, and Sarabi, 3, fears she could be left homeless after being put on a rental blacklist.
Sarah Ashworth, with children Kai, 6, and Sarabi, 3, fears she could be left homeless after being put on a rental blacklist. Benden Allen

Lismore woman on blacklist over $140 rental debt

SARAH Ashworth named her two-year-old daughter after a character from The Lion King and loves watching videos with the kids.

But quality time with her family could end abruptly if, as she fears, she, Sarabi and six-year-old son Kai are suddenly left homeless.

Ms Ashworth said she had been told by real estate agents she would spend five years on a blacklist for tenants after missing $140 in rental payments.

She said she missed the payments through circumstances beyond her control, but now the debt could mean she and her young children will end up on the streets when her current six-month lease runs out in February.

The list, also known as the Residential Tenancy Database, collects information from real estate agents about tenants to help property managers and landlords assess risk and identify potential ‘bad’ tenants.

“I only got the place I’m in now because no one else wanted it,” she said. “It’s  dark and dingy and I don’t know if they’ll renew my lease in February. This could happen to anyone, and it’s simply not fair that I can’t do anything about it.”

Elders Lismore licensee Andrew Gordon backed the tenancy list, saying some people abused ‘the privilege of renting and landlords had a right to know who they were’.

However, he agreed the rules around the blacklist could be fairer and that some people on the list deserved to be taken off, particularly those who had paid the debts that got them placed on it.

Since rules regarding the database changed in 2004, Mr Gordon said if a tenant did not repay outstanding rent within three months they would be on the list for three years – not five as Ms Ashworth had been told – even if they paid off their debt.

Mr Gordon said being on the list could stop tenants being approved for rental properties.
“You really don’t know why some people take this amount of time to pay off their debts, and for some it could involve a domestic violence issue,” he said.

Lismore women’s refuge program co-ordinator and counsellor Kelly Young has seen hundreds of women like Ms Ashworth who are on the blacklist and fearing homelessness.

“We have tried to get women off the list, but to no avail,” she said.

Ms Young said the list was hardest on victims of domestic violence.

“Basically when some women walk away from domestic violence their house is damaged. We find women usually have their name on the lease and then get blacklisted because the place is in such a bad state or the rent hasn’t been paid,” she said.

“These women come to us with their kids and are in crisis. Being blacklisted from cheap rentals is the last thing they need. I had one woman who offered six months’ rent in advance, but was still rejected because she was on this list after leaving a domestic violence situation.”

The Office of the NSW Privacy Commissioner website says the list operates nationally and at the current time is largely unregulated.


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