Although the COVID-19 restrictions on movement and gathering have eased, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and this has not been declared otherwise by the World Health Organisation. If you have health concerns or if you are at a higher health risk there may be some steps you can take to ensure the safety of you and your community.
When access is required (including to show the premises to prospective purchasers or tenants) the rules are as set out in our general Privacy and Access factsheet. However, if you have health and safety concerns about an inspection being held at your home for a permitted purposes, consider the following:
1. Ask the real estate agent for their COVID-19 Safety Plan
Ask the real estate agent if they have a COVID-Safety Plan in place. When access is being required to show the premises to prospective purchasers or tenants, this is the real estate agent conducting business at your home, therefore the real estate agent must create a COVID-19 Safety Plan that is tailored to your residential premises. There are generally 5 conditions for a valid COVID-19 Safety Plan:
- Keeping people (attendees and your household) safe
- Physical distancing
- Guidance on ventilation
- Hygiene and cleaning
If you are concerned that the landlord/agent is not complying with their requirement to have a COVID-19 Safety plan, you should consider writing to them about your concerns. The below sample letter can be adapted to your personal circumstances and be used to obtain an undertaking from the agent that precautionary measures are in place to keep you and the community safe:
Dear [Real Estate Agent],
I note your request about accessing my home for [purpose].
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 that is tailored to us in advance. We also ask that you provide an undertaking that you are taking all the necessary precautionary steps in entering our home, which is a private space and not a "business", and that you also do the following:
Keeping people (attendees and your household) safe
[e.g. ensuring that people who have COVID-19 symptoms do not attend]
[e.g. ensure foot covering is provided to all the invitees
ensure facial masks are provided to (and worn by) all invitees prior to entry
ensure hand sanitiser is provided and used before each entry]
[e.g. observe the 1.5 metre rule between groups for social distancing]
[e.g. 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...]
2. Open inspections and Auctions
The Residential Tenancies Act 2010 does not allow for open homes and on-site auctions. Open house activities are an invitation to the world to enter your home, the people who do attend may not be prospective purchasers or tenants and there are risks when strangers enter 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, make sure you 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 an online virtual open house / inspection instead.
3. Key health guidelines
The NSW Government will continue to provide guidelines on how to keep the community safe. If you have a higher health risk or are more vulnerable you should try and negotiate with the landlord/real estate agent for a higher safety standard.
If the landlord or agent is going to enter your home or bring individuals through your home, any key health guidelines must still be met. Currently, the NSW Government’s Guidelines in relation to maintaining social distancing are in place and they include:
- Taking steps to maintain physical distancing of greater than 1.5m;
- Ensuring people wear a face mask;
- Promoting good hygiene on premises, including providing alcohol-based hand sanitiser;
- Using digital platforms where possible to discourage physical contact;
- Keeping detailed contact records of people attending open homes;
- Managing the number of people entering small spaces.
You can read the current NSW Government's guidelines here It is appropriate to ask the agent/landlord what steps they are taking to ensure those guidelines are followed. See the sample letter above.