Tenancy Databases, Professional Practices and Housing Access among Low‐Income Tenants in the Private Rental Sector in Australia


This essay addresses the impacts of electronic tenancy databases upon social relations in the field of private rental tenancy in Australia. Insights arise from research carried out, in 2002–3, in the eastern, mainland states of Australia that included interviews with tenants and property managers in the private rental sector. Property managers viewed tenancy databases as a tool for efficient, effective and professional risk management, and ‘professional’ practice was held to render misconduct or improper listings extremely unlikely. In this context, tenants were individualized and expected to actively work to construct, maintain and document their reputation as a ‘good tenant’. For tenants, tenancy databases could have a particular, definitive effect. ‘Not being listed’ (along with getting a full rental bond refund, references from previous landlords, and so on) is an indicator that helps build a satisfactory, personal rental history. On the other hand, being ‘listed’ is read as a prime indicator of risk and effectively overriding other aspects of a tenant’s application for tenancy. ‘Listed’ tenants find themselves being forced to shift further and further away from the formal rental market and ultimately into insecure and inappropriate housing arrangements at the periphery.