Over 400,000 Victorian households privately rent the premises in which they live. It has become common practice for landlords and agents to use photographs and videos when advertising these premises for sale or lease. The photographs and videos often show possessions of the tenant. Victorian law is unclear about whether landlords can take or use these photographs and videos without tenants’ consent.
The Victorian Law Reform Commission is looking into the laws that regulate the taking and use of advertising photographs and videos that contain tenants’ possessions. This review forms part of the Commission’s community law reform program, which enables members of the community to contribute their ideas on how to improve Victorian law. Under the Victorian Law Reform Commission Act 2000 (Vic), the Commission may initiate inquiries into issues of limited legal scope but of general community concern.
The Victorian Law Reform Commission has undertaken this project following discussions with the Tenants Union of Victoria. The Commission was told that tenants were not always given adequate notice that advertising photographs would be taken, and that some tenants felt the photographs violated their privacy and placed them at risk of theft or personal harm. The Commission’s preliminary investigation uncovered a number of tenants with concerns of this kind.
Equally, the concerns of landlords and agents relate to their capacity to advertise their properties effectively. The use of photographs and videos is considered an important advertising tool.
The digital age has brought benefits to landlords, who can more readily showcase their properties, and to prospective tenants and buyers, who can more easily search for suitable properties to rent or buy. These benefits, however, bring with them new and significant issues, including a lack of control over the publication and distribution of the photographs and videos and the length of time the photographs and videos are available online. The Commission will consider whether modern technology has rendered existing law inadequate and in need of amendment.
I encourage tenants, landlords, real estate agents and people with expertise in residential tenancy law to make a submission by 11 August 2014.
The Hon. Philip Cummins AM
Chair, Victorian Law Reform Commission