Western Australia has become the first State to announce a reversal of the ban on house inspections. The state is to allow inspections with a maximum attendance of 10 people.
Unlike the eastern states, WA’s travel restrictions only prevent long distance travel so do not make inspections impossible by confining people to their houses.
The other states meanwhile are maintaining their bans on property inspections with only Queensland announcing a relaxation of its travel ban to 50 kms from the home, but even this is only for recreational purposes. This means home inspections other than private inspections remain illegal in most states as is travel to the inspected property.
Both the express prohibition and general travel restrictions will need to be modified by each State if things are to return to normal.
Relaxation of ban in WA
Premier Mark McGowan and Health Minister Roger Cook announced on Sunday 26 April 2020 that some of Western Australia's stage 3 restrictions will be relaxed effective Monday, 27 April 2020, thanks to the State’s COVID-19 progress.
The changes, based on health advice, will mean indoor and outdoor non-work gatherings will be relaxed to enable for up to 10 persons, lifted from the two person only limit, following continued low number of new cases and the encouraging response to COVID-19 in WA.
Importantly for the property industry, it was explicitly announced that open homes and display village openings are now allowed so long as the events comply with appropriate record keeping and hygiene practices and the 10-person total attendance rule.
Express prohibition in other States
Other States retain their explicit bans on property inspections.
Queensland explicitly banned auction houses, real estate auctions and open houses from midnight on 26 March, as part of the ban on ‘non-essential gatherings’.
New South Wales also banned attendance at auctions and open house inspections for large groups as of midnight 25 March 2020. However, online auctions, private inspections and in-person negotiations may go ahead whilst the attendees maintain social distancing and hygiene practices.
The Victorian government banned all public auctions and inspections of residential properties between midnight on 17 April 2020 and midnight on 11 May 2020. Private appointments are still able to continue. As of 9 April 2020 the Victorian government announced a total ban of all inspections of occupied properties. This decision was quickly reversed following massive industry backlash and predictions of catastrophic consequences for the real estate industry. The situation is now that private inspections of an occupied, tenanted residential property are permitted with relevant health precautions in place.
Tasmania currently bans the provision of real estate auctions and open home inspections, or other similar services, other than private home inspections of no more than 3 persons per inspection, unless the services are lawfully provided remotely by electronic means.
States other than Western Australia will also have to modify their various home confinement directions to allow would be buyers to travel to home inspections.