Victoria's real estate industry body said it had no choice but to instruct members to immediately stop holding scheduled open inspections of occupied private homes after new guidelines from Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz late on Thursday ended the practice.
New directions published on the Consumer Affairs Victoria website on Thursday afternoon said agents could no longer conduct open inspections of occupied or tenanted premises because they could not do so and comply with legal requirements for social distancing measures.
Occupants can also no longer leave their home temporarily to facilitate an inspection, the newly updated guidelines say.
Real Estate Institute of Victoria President Leah Calnan said the industry body, whose members account for more than half of all licensed estate agents in the state, was only informed of the changes at 5.35pm on Thursday, with no prior consultation with the industry
"It’s absolutely disgraceful by the minister’s office," Ms Calnan told The Australian Financial Review on Friday.
"There’s been no media notification, no notification to consumers and no notifications to non-REIV members."
It wasn't immediately clear how many open inspections planned for Easter Saturday - which Victorian agents have until now been conducting by scheduled appointment and with the occupant leaving the dwelling - would be affected by the new regulations.
Ms Calnan said 95 per cent of inspections were typically of premises that were occupied.
CoreLogic figures showed 72 auctions scheduled to take place in Victoria this Easter weekend, although with those being the result of marketing campaigns begun before the COVID-19 restrictions on auctions, it was likely that more than half would be withdrawn. NSW had 316 scheduled auctions.
A spokeswoman for Ms Kairouz was unrepentant about the new rules and said home inspections could be carried out virtually, or only after a property was fully vacated and disinfected.
"Our message is clear - stay home," the spokeswoman said.
"There are only four reasons to leave your home: food and supplies, medical care or caregiving, exercise and work or education.
"We know this is an incredibly difficult time for renters and landlords and we're working hard to get an effective resolution for everyone as quickly as possible.
"The national cabinet has agreed to a moratorium for six months on evictions for both residential and commercial tenants if they are struggling to pay rent because of financial hardship due to coronavirus, and we will have more to say on this soon."
Separately on Friday, the industry body for real estate agents in NSW said a lack of clear direction from that state government about the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords was threatening people and properties, their livelihoood and mental health.
“What the industry needs urgently is clear direction from the NSW Government that sets out a considered rent relief package for those in actual need and, which considers the needs of all stakeholders in the process: tenants, landlords and the property managers who care for them," REINSW President Leanne Pilkington said.
“This is a time of unprecedented stress and anxiety. Everyone is feeling it. A rent relief package with clear rules, which sets out who is entitled to what under the given circumstances, would support the mental health and wellbeing of both tenants and landlords at this uncertain time."
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