Restrictions on people entering your home during the COVID-19 crisis have changed a number of times. We are regularly updating this Guide to keep it up to date. For the latest info, also see the page: What you can and can't do under the rules (NSW Government).
- Can the landlord continue with inspections for sale or lease, including open homes?
From 26 June 2021 if a dwelling is in Greater Sydney (including Central Coast, Wollongong and Blue Mountains), inspections for lease or sale are limited to one person by appointment.
In our view, this only allows the landlord to show the premises to prospective buyers a maximum of two times a week at a rate of one person per day. Accessing the premises for inspections for lease is allowed a reasonable number of times a week but also at a rate of one person per day.
Access still needs to comply with the normal access rules as detailed in our Access factsheet.
For inspections for sale, it is not a reasonable excuse for a person to leave their place of residence to inspect a property unless it is potentially for their use as a new place of residence. This means a person seeking to purchase as an investment should not be leaving their premises to inspect premises, only potential owner occupiers.
For all homes in NSW, 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. 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 the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2021
- Do I have to give access for repairs?
Tenants in Greater Sydney
The landlord or agent, or another person authorised by the landlord, cannot enter the premises to carry out or assess the need for non urgent repairs, maintenance and cleaning. This restriction applies from Monday 19th July 2021 until Friday 30th July 2021.
There are a few exceptions to this restriction.
Access for repairs and maintenance is allowed if one of the following applies:
(a) Repairs are urgent. Work that is considered urgent is necessary for ensuring the health, safety or security of the premises or residents. The Residential Tenancies Act provides a definition of work that is considered urgent.
Urgent repairs include the following: a burst water service; an appliance, fitting or fixture that uses water or is used to supply water that is broken or not functioning properly, so that a substantial amount of water is being wasted; a blocked or broken lavatory system; a serous roof leak; gas leak; dangerous electrical fault; flooding or serious flood damage; serious storm or fire damage; a failure of breakdown of the gas, electricity or water supply to the residential premises; a failure or breakdown of any essential service on the residential premises for hot water, cooking, heating, cooling or laundering; any fault or damage that causes the residential premises to be unsafe or insecure.
(b) Due to an emergency
(c) For installation or repair of an essential utility (water, gas, electricity, internet, television, or telecommunications service)
(d) For fire protection and safety
(e) Unoccupied properties can be accessed for cleaning and repairs to get them ready for sale or lease.
Waste disposal work on the common property of a residential premises is an example of work that can continue during these restrictions.
If you are concerned that your landlord or agent are not complying with the Public Health Orders you can use the sample letter to write to them.
I note you have requested to access the premises to carry out (insert non urgent repair). The NSW Government has placed a stop on this type of work in Greater Sydney until the 30th July 2021.
The Public Health Orders state that no one is authorised to visit our premises to engage in work that is cleaning, carrying out non urgent repairs and maintenance.
Please contact me once these restrictions have been lifted to arrange access for this work.
Tenants outside Greater Sydney
The landlord or agent, or another person authorised by the landlord, can enter the premises without your consent to carry out or assess the need for non-urgent repairs provided they give 2 days notice each time. However, key health guidelines (see below) should still be followed and can be used to highlight concerns and negotiate different timing.
- Do I need to allow routine inspections or other access?
Tenants in Greater Sydney
NSW Fair Trading is advising Real Estate Agents and the broader Real Estate industry that routine inspections and visits by third parties that require access to the premises are not allowed under the current public health orders for Greater Sydney unless they are needed for urgent health and safety reasons.
This information from NSW Fair Trading can be found here.
NSW Fair Trading advises that this restriction includes Agents/landlords doing routine inspections and photographers taking photos of the premises for sale.
If your Agent is insisting on access at this time we would recommend you inform the Agent of the advice from NSW Fair Trading and provide them with a link to the information on Fair Trading website.
These restrictions on access are due to end on 31 July 2021 in some parts of Greater Sydney.
The NSW Government has announced that there will be new Public Health Orders commencing on that day and we will update the guide once we have the details of these new orders.
Tenants outside Greater Sydney
We believe agents and their landlords can reasonably delay routine inspections until the public health orders are no longer in force.
If inspections are to take place at this time key health guidelines should be followed (see below).
Alternatively, they may organise a virtual inspection, though this does transfer their work to you.
Routine inspections still require 7 days notice - even for a virtual inspection.
Other access by a person being paid to attend for example a photographer is permitted. While work is permitted, consider whether the reason for the visit can be delayed by 4 weeks or more.
- Key health guidelines
If the landlord or agent is going to enter your home or bring individuals through your home, key health guidelines must still be met, including that agents and landlords take steps to:
- Ensure physical distancing of greater than 1.5m is maintained;
- Ensure people wear a face mask if unable to maintain 1.5 metres of physical distance from others;
- Promote good hygiene on premises, including providing hand sanitiser;
- Use digital platforms where possible to discourage physical contact;
- Keep detailed contact records of people attending open homes;
- Manage the number of people entering small spaces.
You can read the NSW Government's guidelines on social distancing here.
See also What you can and can't do under the rules (NSW Government)