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House Inspection and Open Homes Rules during Covid-19

By Ben Jusufi

Real estate never sleeps, so just because the world is battling a pandemic it does not mean you have to put the search for your dream home on hold, nor do landlords have to forgo inspecting their assets.

However, with Coronavirus impacting Australian states and territories in different ways, authorities have issued a range of guidelines when it comes to real estate.

So, here is a breakdown of rules you may have to follow for house inspections and open homes.

1. You must wear a mask in Victoria

Wearing masks is now mandatory for everyone in Victoria when they leave home.

This means regardless of whether you are an agent, home buyer, renter or landlord, if you are visiting a property in these areas you must be wearing a face covering of some kind, for example a scarf, medical mask, face shield or bandanna.

This is not negotiable, and agents have the right to deny you entry if you do not follow this rule.

However, there are several exemptions including children under the age of 12, and anyone with a medical condition who is carrying documentation, like a medical certificate.

Masks are not mandatory in other states and territories, but people in New South Wales have been asked to consider wearing a face covering if they are in a hotspot area.

Can the government force you to wear a mask?

Yes. In Victoria, the government has put a State of Emergency in place, which gives the Chief Health Officer the power to issue public health orders – like wearing masks – that become law and can be enforced.

If the directive is not followed it can be punished with a fine of $200 and if you fail to cooperate with police you could be arrested or detained.

Is wearing a mask a violation of my rights in Victoria?

The requirement to wear a mask in Victoria has been controversial for some with a small minority of people claiming it is a human rights breach.

However, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has issued a statement saying the mandatory mask policy is a viable legal directive.

“The Victorian Charter requires public authorities – such as Victoria Police or the Department for Health and Human Services – to take proactive steps to safeguard rights, which includes the right to life,” the commission states.

“Directions given to wear a face covering, and to ensure compliance with this directive, are appropriate steps being taken to protect the health of all Victorians and are in keeping with the human rights responsibilities of these organisations.”

How does wearing a mask help stop the spread of Covid-19?

Face masks are not a fool-proof plan of attack, but they are a simple and effective measure to reduce the virus from spreading.

Respiratory viruses like Coronavirus spread through tiny droplets that we expel from our mouth and nose.

Studies have shown these droplets can travel further than you think – especially if they are travelling at fast speed – for example when we sneeze or cough

So, when we wear a mask it simply acts as a net catching a lot of that fluid before it starts travelling through the air.

The takeaway is that masks are not necessarily used to stop you from getting Coronavirus, although they can minimise the risk.

In actual fact, masks stop infected people from spreading the virus by trapping most of the bad stuff before it gets into the air we breathe.

This is a view supported by the scientific and medical community around the world, which is why the World Health Organisation, Australian Government and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are among the bodies that support masks as a measure to fight Covid-19.

2. Private inspections now open for Melbourne Metro and regional Victoria

Under Second Step restrictions, private inspections are allowed with strict rules. Property inspections are allowed to be conducted with one real estate agent and one prospective buyer or tenant along with their household or intimate partner.

Contactless inspections are via booking only and are limited to 15 minutes in duration. Melbourne residents are not permitted to travel to regional Victoria to inspect properties.

In regional Victoria, inspections for prospective buyers or tenants can be conducted by private appointment under Third Step restrictions announced on September 16. Inspections are limited to one real estate agent and one interested party.

Social distancing, the wearing of masks and other hygiene practices must be carried out during the visit.

Under a further easing of restrictions effective from 11.59pm on October 18, Melburnians are allowed to travel beyond the mandated 25km limit to inspect a home, provided it is within the metro area.

Face-to-face commercial property inspections will also resume.

3. Outdoor auctions resume

Under the further easing of restrictions, outdoor auctions with up to 10 people, plus those required to conduct the auction, are permitted in metropolitan Melbourne.

This change bring Melbourne into line with the current auction rules for regional Victoria.

4. Abide by the social distancing rules.

The good news is in states other than Victoria the rules have been relaxed and open houses and house inspections have returned to normal.

There are still some social distancing requirements in place that are detailed below.

5. You must provide personal details

In Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria agents must keep details including name, address, and mobile phone number of anyone that visits a property.

These will be kept for a minimum eight weeks and handed to the state’s health authorities and contact tracing teams if an agent is alerted by the health authorities.


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