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Tenants May Gain Right to Restrict Open Home Viewings

Renters could gain new protection from large numbers of people coming through their homes for open for inspections when the house they live in is put up for sale. In what a tenant's group has hailed an important legal decision, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has blocked a real estate agent from staging mass open for inspections for prospective buyers of an eastern suburbs home, as reported byThe Age.

Estate agents Hockingstuart had begun the process of selling the Box Hill home and informed the tenants – a couple who had signed a new lease only three months earlier – they would be required to allow people to come through the house for viewings. The tenants were also asked to allow their home to be photographed, with the pictures to be displayed on property websites. The couple objected and, having failed to reach an agreement with hockingstuart, turned to the Tenants Union, a group that promotes tenants' rights. The Tenants Union helped take the matter to the administrative tribunal, which a week ago issued an order preventing the agent from bringing more than a single prospective buyer through at a time, unless they have the tenants' express consent.

The ruling does not set a legal precedent, but could provide guidance for future cases that come before the tribunal when tenants object to open for inspections. "The law states that tenants are entitled to 'quiet enjoyment' of their rental property," Tenants Union policy officer James Bennett said. "Having dozens of strangers looking through a home without your consent can be a massive infringement of privacy, security and quiet enjoyment.” The Tenants Union hopes the decision will push real estate agents to set inspections by appointment rather than open-slather viewing times, where curious neighbours or even prospective thieves can look through a house alongside genuine house hunters. Real Estate Institute of Victoria chief executive Enzo Raimondo warned the decision could ultimately mean a worse result for the tenant. "One open for inspection is surely far preferable to a dozen or more single inspections," he said. Mr Raimondo said the institute would be assessing the case, "in light of its potential impact on a property owner's ability to sell a property".

"While it is important that tenants' rights are protected, it's also important that owners can sell their property as required," he said.