Advice is general in nature, consult a legal practitioner for your specific circumstances.

Rights of entry

Find out your rights if the landlord/estate agent wants to bring prospective buyers through your home. What are your rights about getting repairs done and allowing entry to tradespeople? How clean do you have to keep the property?

Restricting entry to your home

We suggest that only people undertaking urgent repairs should be allowed to enter your home. You can write to the landlord or agent to request this.

If you live outside the Restricted Area – you can request that anyone entering your home for urgent repairs is not from the Restricted Area.

Letters to restrict entry to your home

If you need help to write to the landlord or agent, try one of our example letters – These letters are for Directions issued Sunday 11 October:

Masks across Victoria

From 11:59pm on Sunday 2 August everyone in Victoria will need to wear a face covering when they leave home, unless they have a lawful exception.

The compulsory mask wearing applies to everyone entering your home, be it landlords and real estate agents, tradespeople and members of the public attending private inspections.

Note: Face covering means a fitted face mask that covers the nose and mouth. From 11:59pm on 11 October a face shield on its own does not meet the requirement to wear a face mask.

Physical distancing and good hygiene

Anyone who enters your home must also practise physical distancing and good hygiene.

Businesses – such as real estate agents – have additional requirements when they enter your home such as: keeping records, limiting the number of people in an indoor space (density quotient) and cleaning areas accessible to members of the public.

Inspections during COVID-19

Open house inspections are not permitted anywhere in Victoria.

Outdoor auctions (attended by no more than 10 members of the public) are permitted.

Landlords have no rights for open inspections or auctions

No matter what the Directions say, under the current law – Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic) – there’s no right for an agent, or landlord, to hold open house inspections or onsite auctions at a renter’s home. And renters do not need to allow agents and landlords to enter their homes for these reasons.

An open inspection occurs where a member of the public can just walk through a home. Generally, and especially now, you do not need to allow the landlord entry to your home for this reason (See Higgerson v Ricco (Residential Tenancies) [2014] VCAT 1214).

Generally, the landlord has a legal right to bring a prospective buyer or tenant through the premises, but this does not extend to open house inspections or auctions.

So you do not have any duty under the Residential Tenancies Act to allow entry to your home for the purposes of an open for inspection or auction. For more information, see: privacy and entry and for sale, selling, sold!

Do I have to leave my home for an inspection?

No. The landlord, or agent, cannot ask you to leave your home for an inspection. No matter what the Directions say, under the current law – Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic) –an agent, or landlord, has no right to ask you to leave just because they want to show the property to a prospective buyer or tenant.

You have a right to exclusive possession and quiet enjoyment of your home. The landlord, or agent, must do all that is reasonable to ensure you have this. The landlord/agent cannot compel you to leave.

If you choose to leave – and you live in metropolitan Melbourne – make sure you only leave for a purpose permitted under the Stay at Home Directions (Restricted Areas) (No 17).

Refusing inspections by private appointment for sale/rent

The Directions permit inspections by private appointment but you must be given proper notice. You can refuse entry to the landlord or agent if they did not give you such notice (see: privacy and entry).

For more on your rights when the landlord is selling your rented home, see: for sale, selling, sold!

 

Refusing inspections by the landlord or agent

The landlord or agent cannot inspect your home if:

  • they do not give you proper notice (see: privacy and entry), or
  • it is within the first three months of your first tenancy agreement (lease), or
  • they have done an inspection within the past six months.

During the pandemic, there are some additional reasons you can refuse entry to your home.

Refusing entry for a “COVID-19 reason”

From 29 March, 2020. you will not be in breach of your usual duties under your agreement or the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 if you refuse for one of these reasons:

  • if you are ill (whether or not due to COVID-19)
  • you are complying with laws, directions and recommendations relating to COVID-19, and its control
  • you will suffer severe hardship if you do comply, or
  • there is an exceptional circumstance relating to COVID that makes it not possible, or practical, to comply.

Exceptionally vulnerable people can apply for an exemption

If you have conditions that make you exceptionally vulnerable to COVID-19, you can apply to VCAT to make an order that you be “exempted” from certain provisions of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic) such as entry by other people into your rented home. This exemption can apply either for a period of time or, in some circumstances, indefinitely. VCAT can attach other conditions.

Given the risk some people face when exposed unnecessarily to third-party contact in the home, this is the best opportunity to raise these concerns and ask for orders restricting entry to the home.

Obtaining a VCAT Order under these provisions is rare. However, given that the government hasn’t put in place other protections, applying for such an order at least gives VCAT the power and opportunity to address the individuals concerned.

To prove that you have grounds to be exempted from part of the Act (such as the entry provisions), you must show that “in all the circumstances, the application of the provision of this Act would occasion severe hardship to the applicant” (s25(3) Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic)).

It is unlikely to prevent evictions, but we have never experienced a pandemic before.

The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 is likely to be useful in such applications. For more information see: The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities and the Residential Tenancies Act (PDF)

How to apply

All disputes must go to Consumer Affairs Victoria before they can go to VCAT. Consumer Affairs Victoria decides if the dispute goes to alternative dispute resolution or to VCAT for a decision. Either way, you should have the chance to give your side of the story.

Apply to Consumer Affairs Victoria first: Rental dispute initial assessment [CAV website]

  • If Consumer Affairs Victoria decides the dispute should go to VCAT, they will give you a reference number to include in your VCAT application.
  • Consumer Affairs Victoria may need to assess the dispute further before issuing a reference number.
  • If you need to make an urgent application to VCAT for an exemption, we recommend you call Consumer Affairs Victoria on 1300 558 181 and request they give you a reference number over the phone to allow you to make an urgent application.

TIP: we recommend you have your VCAT application ready so you can lodge it with VCAT as soon as Consumer Affairs Victoria gives you a reference number.

Cleaning requirements and COVID-19

Requirements for tenants

The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 (Vic) only requires the tenant to keep the premises reasonably clean. There is no specific duty to ensure the premises are “sterilized”. So, if you get a Notice for breach of duty that requires a standard of cleaning beyond reasonably clean, it may be treated as invalid. See When you get a breach of duty notice.

Cleaning when moving out

For similar reasons, when ending the tenancy you should not be compelled to use any specialised services. Such requirements, clauses or other costs would be harsh and inconsistent with the current law (see section 27, 28).

Can a cleaner come into my home during third step restrictions?

Yes. Now that masks are mandatory in all of Victoria, this applies to all people entering your home including cleaners. 

Can a cleaner come into my home during second step restrictions?

In-home support is permitted if you need help with cooking or cleaning because of age, disability, illness, a chronic health condition or other medical reason. 

Repairs and COVID-19

Can tradespeople enter my home during third step restrictions?

Yes. 

Can tradespeople enter my home during second step restrictions?

Yes, for urgent and essential repairs.

The current Permitted Work Premises List includes urgent and emergency repairs:

  • Urgent / emergency residential repair and maintenance (including to maintain access to critical utilities and services, such as telecommunications).

If you need repairs done

Due to government restrictions it may be difficult to find tradespeople. If the landlord is unable to find one to do the job you can try to find one yourself and pass on the details to the landlord or agent.

VCAT can make an Order that the landlord get the repairs done. If you found a tradesperson willing to do the work, you can provide their contact details for the VCAT hearing as evidence that the works can be done.

If the landlord cannot find someone to do the repairs, you continue to have a right to compensation.

Safety when people enter your home

It is important you take all practical steps to ensure you and all tradespeople keep safe. Mask wearing applies to all people entering your home.

For tips on keeping everyone safe, listen to coronacast (Monday 6 April) [ABC website; go to 6.52].

Things they recommend for tradespeople:

  • wearing a mask and gloves
  • changing gloves after each customer
  • cleaning all the surfaces that they touch with alcohol or peroxide or bleach
  • washing their hands before and after seeing you
  • using their own towels.

If you don’t want repairs done

There is no right to renovate during a tenancy. If the landlord wants to do work that is not essential – such as renovations – you can apply to VCAT for a restraining order but this may affect the amount you would be entitled to in relation to a compensation claim. Such matters will be determined by VCAT on a case by case basis.

More resources

Second step restrictions (Metropolitan Melbourne)
Third step restrictions (regional Victoria)
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