Victoria: Ban on inspections of occupied homes overturned
The Victorian Government has overturned its short-lived ban on physical inspections of occupied homes, following an impassioned campaign by the state’s real estate industry.
Consumer Affairs Victoria’s website had changed by 11am on Easter Monday to state “private inspections of an occupied/tenanted residential property are permitted” when just the real estate agent and the person inspecting the property were present.
This meant any resident whose home was being inspected by a prospective buyer or tenant would need to temporarily leave their home for one of the reasons permitted under the stay-at-home directions.
These included to obtain food and supplies, for exercise, care and other compassionate reasons, or work or education.
This marked a backflip from CAV’s previous directive, which was abruptly relayed to agents on Good Friday eve, that they could “no longer conduct public or in-person private inspections of tenanted or occupied properties”.
CAV stated this was because “it will not be possible for agents, prospective owners or tenants, and existing tenants to each comply with their legal requirements” to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
It said there would be “no exemption for tenants or occupants to temporarily vacate their place of residence to facilitate inspections”, stating inspections of occupied properties should be carried out virtually or delayed “until a property is fully vacated and disinfected”.
Victoria’s real estate industry reacted by dubbing the ban “an overkill that will have incredible repercussions” for buyers, sellers, renters and agents, noting the vast majority Australian property buyers were reluctant to purchase homes sight unseen.
It marked an escalation from the Prime Minister’s outlawing of open for inspections late last month, which had still allowed agents to book private inspections with prospective buyers and tenants.
Real Estate Institute of Victoria president Leah Calnan told the Herald Sun the backflip followed “extensive conversations” over the Easter weekend between the REIV and Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz.
“Gil King, our chief executive, explained the practical processes agents had already implemented in their businesses to ensure the safety of the consumer, the real estate employee and the occupier,” she said.
“The ramifications (of the ban) were enormous, not just financially for individual businesses, but for the state.
“Whether you love real estate agents or you hate them, we provide shelter, and that’s an essential duty.”
The Herald Sun has contacted Ms Kairouz for comment.
Prominent Melbourne real estate agents had banded together to urge the government to ditch the ban, with 26 real estate professionals notably signing an email sent by Barry Plant Group chief executive Mike McCarthy to Premier Daniel Andrews, Treasurer Tim Pallas and Ms Kairouz.
They included the REIV’s Mr King and REA Group chief executive Owen Wilson
The email stated that prohibiting private physical inspections had the potential to displace “many in our society”, including people who had already sold and now needed to buy or rent, those who had no choice but to sell, and renters who needed to find new homes due to changes in their circumstances.
“If shelter is a basic human need, then the ability for people to find shelter, which in our society is predominantly through a real estate agent, is paramount,” the email read.
“It then follows that the provision of the agent’s service should be deemed essential, albeit under very tight restrictions and safeguards as required in the current environment.”