NSW Fair Trading’s authorised officers are currently making random visits at open inspections and auctions across the State, checking compliance safety plans are both in place and being implemented.
Inspectors will examine social media footage of auctions if concerns are raised that agents are not complying with social distancing requirements.
This is just one of the strategies being used to ensure the real estate industry remains vigilant about the threat of COVID-19.
During these inspections:
- There will be checks to make sure agents have an up-to-date COVID Safety Plan in place
- There will be reviews on the conduct of auctions
- Checks for failures to comply with record-keeping requirements
- Any breaches of the Public Health Order may result in penalty infringement notices being issued (up to $5,500)
David Simpson, Senior Inspector of Consumer, Building and Property at NSW Fair Trading
joined last week’s Keeping It Real video update advising that the industry has reacted positively. Speaking with REINSW President Leanne Pilkington and Chief Executive Officer Tim McKibbin, he revealed agents are happy to participate because it assists them as well.
“No one wants to go back to virtual open homes and virtual auctions,” Mr Simpson said.
So how will these checks take place?
Authorised officers from NSW Fair Trading appointed under section 126 of the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW) are able to request to see an agency’s COVID-19 Safety Plan. Inspectors will produce written authority when arriving at a property.
A copy of the plan must be produced - even if on-site at an auction – and can be provided by an electronic device such as an iPad.
Only one plan is required for each licence and there is no obligation to show this to the public.
Agents are also not required to register their action plan with the NSW Government, however, it is considered best practice.
COVID Safe businesses are recognised by a blue tick which can be displayed at their premises or digitally; they will also receive direct emails on any changes to restrictions as part of their registered plan. Only one person per four square metres is permitted at auctions and open houses. Details of attendees – including name, mobile and email addresses – for all staff, customers and contractors - must also be recorded.
What about at auctions?
Agents are not responsible for onlookers when a property is being sold under the hammer – only potential buyers. They must, however, separate both spectators and bidders.
“If you have 200 people turn up to an auction and only 10 registered bidders – the agent is not responsible for 200 people,” Mr Simpson said.
“The front yard, for argument’s sake, is the area that they are responsible for – only registered bidders (are to be) in that area and everyone else will have to stand outside the property boundary on the street.”
COVID marshalls are not mandatory at auctions but are considered ‘smart’ especially if the market indicates it will be a popular sale. When groups are bidding, the details of only one contact is sufficient to support contact tracing.
Authorised NSW Fair Trading officers will also be checking on basic records such as whether there is a written reserve price and if the auctioneer is appropriately licensed.
“We are speaking with whoever is in charge of the auction and then we are taking a back seat,” Mr Simpson said.
“We want to make sure we are as invisible as we can be - we want things to flow as normal.”
Is having a COVID Safety Plan enough?
Just having a COVID Safety Plan doesn’t mean agents have met their obligations, Mr Simpson warned. They need to ensure records are being kept and social distancing maintained.
Agents are also reminded to be mindful that quite often proceedings are captured on video and uploaded onto social media and can end up in mainstream media.
“If you end up on the 6pm news and there are 300 people in someone’s front yard and there is real estate signage all over it then that real estate agent is going to have a few questions to answer,” Mr Simpson said.
For more information go to:
NSW Fair Trading – Housing & property – Property professionals
NSW Government – Auction houses (including residential sales, tenancy open houses and saleyards)