The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has barred a real estate agent from holding open viewings of a home in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, in a move which could have significant implications for the way the industry stages property inspections.
Three months after signing a fresh lease, the couple residing in the Box Hill house were informed by real estate agents Hocking Stuart that they would be required to allow interested parties to enter the property for viewing purposes.
In addition to allowing prospective buyers to enter the house, the couple were also required to permit the interior of the home to be photographed for subsequent display on real estate sites.
When the couple refused to accept these conditions and negotiations with Hocking Stuart failed to prove fruitful, the Tenants Union, which represents the rights and interests of renters, helped them to take the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The tribunal ordered Hocking Stuart to cease allowing more than a single prospective buyer to inspect the house at any given time without the express consent of the tenants, effectively preventing the real estate agent from staging mass inspections.
While the tribunal order does not set a legal precedent, the Tenants Union has nonetheless hailed the ruling as serving to safeguard the rights of renters to "quiet enjoyment" of the properties where they reside as stipulated by the law, as well as providing a benchmark to guide future cases involving opposition to open viewings.
They hope the decision will compel property agents to only permit inspections by appointment, as opposed to the loose, open viewings which permit any members of the public to pass through the house.
Members of the Victorian real estate industry, however, have expressed concerns about the impact of the decision on the ability of owners to successfully market their properties.
"While it is important that tenants' rights are protected, it's also important that owners can sell their property as required," said Enzo Raimondo, chief executive of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, to Fairfax.
Raimondo also pointed out that open inspections are often preferable to single inspections, since they permit all interested parties to view a particular property at a single time instead of requiring a string of visits on multiple occasions.