Agents are being reminded that they vendors and homeowners are responsible for finding out whether they live in a bushfire prone area.
The Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) have issued the reminder following the recent amendment to the Sales of Land Act 1962 in July 2013 as a result of the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission into the Black Saturday bushfires.
"Property buyers must be told upfront whether land is in a bushfire-prone area," a spokesperson for Consumer Affairs Victoria told the REIV. "Sellers are required to establish whether their property is in a bushfire-prone area. If so, they must ensure this information is disclosed in the Section 32."
REIV CEO Enzo Raimondo said agents should remind vendors that this was their responsibility.
"This was a significant change, introduced in an effort to improve fire-readiness in the wake of the terrible tragedy which struck the state in 2009," he said. "It is essential that homebuyers know whether or not they are buying in bushfire prone area so they can ensure they have a fire plan and that their home and grounds are prepared for the possibility of fire.
"Agents should be aware of the vendor's responsibility for making this information available and of the potential consequences if they do not."
The Consumer Affairs spokesperson said: "If the information in a vendor statement is inaccurate or incomplete, including the information required by the bushfire amendment, a buyer has the option of rescinding the contract at any time before settlement.
"Also, a buyer can cool-off by giving the seller or their agent written notice within three business days of signing the contract, provided the sale was for a residential or small rural property that was not purchased within three business days before or after a public auction, and the buyer is not an estate agent or corporate body," she said.
Mr Raimondo said REIV's rural chapter was keen to remind agents in rural areas of the change. But he noted that it applied to properties across the state and included outer suburbs such as Frankston.
In August 2013 the state's Bushfire Prone Area maps, specifying areas prone to or likely to be prone to bushfire, were updated. Almost 236,000 properties were removed from the bushfire regulations as a result of the review, but another 119,000 were added for the first time.
The reviews are conducted regularly to ensure the maps are as up-to-date as possible, and with another review having taken place in late 2013 further changes are likely. As a result, homeowners should not assume they know the bushfire status of their home, Mr Raimondo said.
The Consumer Affairs spokesperson said prospective buyers were encouraged to conduct their own due diligence and find out whether a home they were thinking of buying was in a bushfire prone area.
Mr Raimondo added that buyer's advocates needed to ensure their clients knew the bushfire status of any home they were considering buying.