I moved this week. Moving during a COVID outbreak is pretty scary – dealing with movers, buying stuff on Facebook Marketplace, all those touch points where you come into contact with people at a time when the contact is like the devil. What I hadn’t anticipated was the particular hell we were going to go through as our house was ready to be rented out again – and the worst part was everything was legal.
I live in Sydney, where this week we had just under 10,000 cases of COVID infections. We are in strict containment – people living in my suburb cannot travel more than 3 miles from their homes, and until today we could only see one other person outside of our home for recreation each day. In many ways, the restrictions are very strict. Except, apparently, when it comes to real estate.
Preparing for potential tenants to inspect the premises, I spent hours tidying up the house, moving boxes in neat piles against the wall, weeding the “GARDEN” for the sake of shit – a garden that we had cultivated for the owners, because when we moved into the yard was this hellish landscape of dried earth and a sad, half-dead potted plant. The instructions were that inspections would take place between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. on a Wednesday, with COVID security restrictions in place.
I read on the ABC that the tenants union had pointed out ‘under Sydney’s foreclosure restrictions estate agents were only allowed to show homes to one person per day and could not do so. only twice a week ”.
However, the NSW Health website has much more vague restrictions in place. He says real estate auctions “should not take place” in Greater Sydney, where I live, except that “inspections can be conducted by private appointment for one person.” What does it mean? Well, who knows. I actually called the NSW Services hotline for COVID to ask, and just read this paragraph.
“So does that mean that a real estate agent can let 20 or 30 people into my house, as long as they walk in one at a time?” ” I asked. “Uh, yeah,” was the response.
However, Leo Patterson Ross, CEO of the NSW Tenants Union, told me otherwise. In an email, he said: “For inspections for sale or rental, public health orders require inspections by appointment only and one person per inspection. The residential tenancy agreement allows two inspections per week, one per day.
“This means that there can only be one person showing the property per day, twice a week,” he added.
I spoke to my real estate agent. “It’s not actually the public health order,” they replied, copying / pasting the vague guideline from NSW Health and adding “below is the link we can show more than one by day provided they do not watch at the same time I have also confirmed this with Fair Trading.
So I called Fair Trading, duh. They were also vague – essentially simply repeating the guidelines from NSW Health and saying that if I felt my property was acting outside of health protocols, I could contact CrimeStoppers.
At this point, I gave up. It was clear that the guidelines from NSW Health were vague, so the cops weren’t going to fine my real estate agent until they brought in 20 people in one fell swoop. My only other option was to take this shit to NSW Civil and Administrative Court, and even if I did, I would still have all these people hanging out in my house in a few hours anyway.
Like any young tenant in Sydney (hell, Australia), I’m used to this “real estate agent’s always right” kind of crap. We’ve all had some sort of fucking experience with a landlord or agent coming to our property out of the blue, ignoring calls and emails to fix mold or plumbing issues, or raising rents. after only one year of renting a home. The rental industry leans heavily towards landlords and agencies, not tenants. It’s like we should be thankful that we even have a roof over our heads, even though we pay hundreds to have it.
OWNERS: give us money so that we can maintain the house
TENANTS: can you repair the blinds or the chairs or the lock on the window?
– rosalind, geriatric athlete ???? (@beaconbodies) September 5, 2020
But right now what we’re talking about isn’t a lack of privacy or our life experience. It is literally about our health. I am fully vaccinated, but I would still like to avoid catching COVID. With over 1,000 cases per day the week of my property inspection, I think it was understandable enough that I was concerned about a bunch of people walking around in my apartment. The chances of any of them carrying the virus are significantly higher than, say, a few months ago when we had virtually no community transmission.
Even though all COVID safety precautions were taken and the real estate agent was vigilantly monitoring to ensure those inspecting had not, for example, dropped their masks once inside, touched anything Either way, ignored the hand sanitizer, it’s still of concern to have eight different people – which could be from anywhere in Sydney, including restricted LGAs – inside my house. Yes, even people currently living in a restricted LGA where the majority of COVID cases are currently transmitted can come to my home to inspect – as long as they have a “real intention” to eventually move there.
What concerns me is not really the people inspecting. I believe most people are good, try to do what’s right to the best of their ability, and don’t want to willfully transmit COVID or lick every surface in my home. It’s not even with my real estate agent – de Classes they are eager to rent my property before they lose any money! Nobody wants to lose money, do they?
It’s with these stupidly vague health rules. How do we get to over 1,000 cases a day in NSW, but we still have confusing and half-baked guidelines on areas of great concern like home inspections? How is there no limit to the number of people an officer can allow into a person’s house while they are still living there?
I understand that businesses must survive this COVID chaos as well. I understand that having absolutely no rental inspections would have a financial impact on agents and owners.
But what about us? We live in these houses. These are our homes. For most of us, this is our only sanctuary where we can feel safe from COVID. We do everything well: take masked walks, avoid people in the street when we go for a run. We should be allowed to feel safe in our own homes – after all, we always pay for it.
What I want is this: a government that sets CLEAR RULES that benefit the health and safety of residents, not the pockets of landlords and real estate agents. Limit inspections to a specific number per day and a limited number of days per week. Be on the side of the people who live in your state – we’re happy to compromise, but not when we think our health and safety is being sold to the highest bidder.
Melissa Mason is a Sydney-based freelance writer. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.