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Tenants' privacy concerns prompt review

07 August 2014 Staff Reporter

Tenants are worried about their privacy as landlords publicise properties through photography during sales campaigns.

At issue is whether landlords should be able to post photos of tenants' furniture on the internet without their permission.

A growing number of tenants are raising this question, with Consumer Affairs Victoria, Privacy Victoria and the Tenants' Union of Victoria reporting a significant number of calls on the issue in the past year, The Age newspaper reports.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission has begun a review of the practice, whereby landlords photograph and film their homes to advertise them for prospective buyers online.

One tenant called the consumer watchdog concerned that a person against whom she had taken out an intervention order might recognise her possessions from the photos and find out where she lived, the commission's consultation paper said.

Although the Victorian Residential Tenancies Act states that landlords can "show" their properties to a future tenant or purchaser, the 1997 law is silent on whether this includes showing that property on the internet.

Chair of the Commission Philip Cummins said the law would only have contemplated showing property "in person".

"With the ubiquitous growth of digital cameras and the reach of the internet, quite a significant issue has arisen and that is, does 'showing' include photographing and filming?” he said.

“And putting it up on the internet? That's the change in the ballpark.”

Mr Cummins is calling on the public to contribute their views to the inquiry online, in order to find a middle ground between tenants and landlords.

Tenants were most concerned that photographs of their children would be posted online, said Mark O'Brien, chief executive of the Tenants' Union of Victoria.

Mr O'Brien said tenants often approached the group after they were unable to compromise with their landlords on when and how they could photograph their homes, since they had a vested interest in using the photos.

"The nicer the tenant makes it look the more saleable it is, so from the agent's point of view that includes all the human touches like photos of the family," he said.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last week prevented a real estate agent from staging mass open inspections for prospective buyers of a Box Hill home after the tenants objected.

This did not form a legal precedent, but is expected to be influential in future similar disputes around the issue.

Tenants' privacy concerns prompt review
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