Privacy as a tenant - Tenants Union of Victoria

    Privacy as a tenant

    The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 states that you have a right to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of your rental property. Landlords and real estate agents do have some rights of entry, but they must meet with certain requirements. If they don’t meet with these requirements, you don’t have to let them into your home.

    Rights of entry

    As long as proper notice is given, the landlord or agent has a right to enter the property if:

    • a Notice to Vacate or a Notice of Intention to Vacate have been given and will expire in less than 14 days, and they want to show the premises to a prospective tenant
    • the premises are to be sold or used as security for a loan and they want to show a prospective buyer or lender through the premises
    • they need to enter to carry out a duty under your tenancy agreement (lease), the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 or another law
    • they are having the property valued
    • they have reasonable grounds to believe that you have failed to meet your duties under your tenancy agreement or the Residential Tenancies Act 1997
    • they want to inspect the premises (provided there has been no inspection within the last 6 months and it is not within the first 3 months of the first tenancy)


    If the landlord or agent wants to enter your home, they must:

    • give you at least 24 hours’ written notice of their intention to visit, stating the reason they want to visit
    • deliver the notice by mail or give it to you in person between the hours of 8am and 6pm (if the notice is delivered by mail, they must add enough time for the mail to be delivered. See Australia Post delivery times.) The landlord might give you the notice by electronic method such as email if you agree.
    • only visit between the hours of 8am and 6pm, and not on public holidays (unless you have agreed otherwise within the last 7 days)
    • not stay longer than necessary

    The landlord or agent may also enter the premises with a trades person if you have agreed to the entry within the last 7 days.

    If they have given proper notice, you have a duty to allow the landlord or agent to enter the premises, even if the time doesn’t suit you or you won’t be home. However you may be able to negotiate a time that will suit you better. The person entering your home must behave in a reasonable manner and must leave as soon as they have finished what they came for.

    Unless the landlord or agent follows the correct procedures, it is an offence for them to enter your premises without a reasonable excuse.

    If your goods are damaged during the landlord or agent’s visit, you can apply for compensation.

    Restraining orders

    If your landlord or agent have not met with the proper entry requirements or have been making frequent or harassing visits, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a Restraining Order. This also applies to harassing phone calls or letters, as these are also a breach of your right to quiet enjoyment. A Restraining Order can prohibit or restrict the landlord or agent from entering the premises or contacting you and it can be enforced by the police. It is an offence for the landlord or agent to breach a Restraining Order and they can be prosecuted.

    Moving out

    If the landlord or agent keeps harassing you, you may wish to end your tenancy and move out. If you don’t have a fixed-term tenancy agreement, you can simply give 28 days’ written notice and move out. If you are mailing the notice, it is a good idea to use registered mail and you must add enough time for the mail to be delivered. See Australia Post delivery times. You can also give your notice of intention to vacate electronically (for example, by email), if the landlord has agreed to you giving notice this way. If you send the notice by email, you should make sure it is to the email address nominated by the landlord or real estate agent and if possible request a read receipt.

    If you do have a fixed-term tenancy agreement you will need to serve the landlord with a 14-day Breach of Duty Notice. You can then apply for a Compliance Order from the Tribunal. If they still don’t stop the harassment, you can serve a 14-day Notice of Intention to Vacate. You should seek advice from the Tenants Union before taking this course of action.

    You may also be eligible for compensation for the landlord or agent’s failure to allow you quiet enjoyment of the property.

    Locks

    If you change any lock on the property, you must give the landlord a copy of the key. Unless you are a ‘protected person’ on a family violence safety notice or intervention order, we don’t recommend that you change the locks in order to protect your privacy. If you refuse to give the landlord a key, they can serve you with a Breach of Duty Notice.

    You must not change any lock that is part of a master key system (where there is one master key which fits several locks, such as all the doors in one block of flats) without first getting the landlord’s consent. If the landlord disagrees to the lock change without good reason, you can apply to the Tribunal for an order that you be allowed to change it without their consent.

    Locks and family violence orders/notices

    If you are a ‘protected person’ on a family violence safety notice or intervention order and the ‘respondent’ (the person who committed the violence) is excluded from your home, you do have the right to change the locks to external doors and windows. You do not need to have your name on the lease but you do need to live at the property. You must give a key to any other tenants living in the property (except for the respondent).

    You must give a key for the new lock and a copy of the family violence notice or order to the landlord or agent, but they are not allowed to give the respondent a key for the new lock as long as the notice or order is current.

    If you need help to pay for the locks to be changed, you may be able to apply to the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal for same-day financial assistance of up to $1000. Attach a copy of the family violence application or police statement to your application. For more information call the Victims of Crime Helpline on 1800 819 817 (Freecall).

    Confidentiality

    There are laws that control how real estate agents are allowed to use your personal information. If you have any complaints about the way that your personal information is being used, contact the Federal Privacy Commissioner on 1300 363 992 or make a written complaint to Consumer Affairs Victoria or the Real Estate Institute of Victoria.  

    This information is a guide only and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice.


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    Tenants Union of Victoria Ltd ACN 081 348 227 | Published: September 2011
    Tenants help 03 9416 2577 | 55 Johnston Street Fitzroy | tuv.org.au
    The Tenants Union of Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

    The Tenants Union of Victoria acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.