In NSW, under the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order (No 5) 2020, the rules are that you cannot have more than 20 people visit your home at any one time (this does not include real estate agents as they are working). This means that landlords/agents are allowed to carry out property inspections if they provide you with the appropriate notice and follow key health guidelines (see below).
On 4 September 2020, the 20 visitor limit was lifted for open homes and auctions. This means that currently, landlords and real estate agents do not have to comply with the 20 visitor limit when holding an open home or auction at your house. However, if a real estate agent is engaged by your landlord to sell or lease your property, that agent must ensure that an auction, open house or other inspection or viewing of the property is conducted in compliance with a relevant COVID-19 Safety Plan. COVID-19 Safety Plans are used by real estate agencies and other businesses to ensure compliance with government health and safety guidelines during COVID-19. If the real estate agent does not have a COVID-19 Safety Plan they could be fined. See ‘COVID-19 Safety Plan’ below
If you have health and safety concerns about an open home or auction being held at your house, you should follow these steps:
You should check with the real estate agent if they have a COVID-Safety Plan in place and you should ask for a copy of this so you can make sure that the health and safety guidelines it contains are being followed. Generally, these plans include a requirement that capacity at the property must not exceed one visitor per 4 square metres of space. See ‘COVID-19 Safety Plan’ below.
You can write to your landlord/agent to obtain an undertaking from the agent that precautionary measures are in place. Please see sample letter here.
- The Residential Tenancies Act 2010 does not allow for open homes and on-site auctions. These activities bring more people than prospective purchasers, so they need your consent. You should be careful about the risks of strangers entering your home. You can ask the real estate agent for details of the open house or auction in advance, and if you have health concerns or if you are at a higher health risk, let the agent or landlord know and see if you can come to an arrangement that takes adequate account of this, for example, by organising a virtual open house or inspection instead.
- Key health guidelines (see below) must still be met. We'd suggest sharing the key health guidelines with the agent or landlord to ensure appropriate measures are in place if they are requesting to bring individuals through your home.
COVID-19 Safety Plan
If you are concerned that the landlord/agent is not complying with their requirement to have a COVID-Safety plan, you should consider writing about your concerns. This sample letter can be adapted to your personal circumstances and used to write to your landlord/agent to obtain an undertaking from the agent that precautionary measures are in place:
Dear [Real Estate Agent],
I note your request about accessing my home for [purpose]. As per the requirements under the Public Health Order, we ask that you confirm for us that you have a COVID-19 safety plan in place and that you provide us with that Plan in advance. We also ask that you provide an undertaking that all the necessary precautionary steps in entering our home, which is a private space and not a "business", that you also do the following:
- ensure foot covering is provided to all the invitees
- ensure facial masks are provided to (and worn by) all invitees prior to entry
- hand sanitiser is provided and used before each entry
- observe the 4sqm rule for the number of people allowed in the premises at a time
- observe the 1.5 metre rule between groups for social distancing
- ensuring all invitees are indeed prospective tenants/purchasers and all contact details of the invitees are
properly kept to allow for contact tracing if necessary.
[If applicable: I note that in our household we are (or have close relatives) in the high risk group of contracting COVID-19 and that these measures are necessary to ensure our health and wellbeing, as well as to protect the broader community.] Please confirm your response to us in writing to avoid any confusion. Upon your confirmation, we will agree to the following access: [date], [time], [for the purposes of...]
If the real estate agent is not able to produce a copy of their COVID-19 Safety Plan , or if the agent does not have a Plan, you can also:
a. Report the agent to NSW Fair Trading.
b. Write to the agent to make clear that the open house/auction cannot lawfully
proceed until they can demonstrate that a COVID-19 safety plan is implemented in
accordance with order 26 of the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement)
Order (No 5) 2020