Major crackdown on dodgy picture practice by Aussie real estate agents

Consumer Affairs Victoria is cracking down on real estate listings showing deceptive images online.

It's a familiar scenario experienced by frustrated renters across the country. Hopeful tenants expressing interest in a property based on real estate images online, only to be met with the less-than-desirable, sub-par property that doesn't quite match the listing.

Collapsed ceilings, mouldy walls and broken fixtures and fittings are some issues tenants, already struggling with rental affordability and availability, have been forced to put up with as housing pressures continue to mount across the country.

But that could be about to change in one state with Consumer Affairs Victoria now investigating rental properties that have been inaccurately depicted in online listings. A positive step for frustrated renters and advocates alike.

Left: Rental advocate Jordie van den Berg standing against grey brick wall. Right: Jordie van den Berg crouching on grass in front of house
TikToker Jordie van den Berg exposes 'horrendous' rentals across the country in his videos. Source: Supplied

Rules to protect Victoria's renters

According to the government agency, real estate agents should not use photos that give the wrong impression of a property. This includes those that are digitally or otherwise enhanced to hide undesirable features, or promote other features.

It also includes photos that are accompanied by comments or other pictures that wrongly suggest a property has views, or is close to amenities such as parks, beaches, schools, transport or recreational facilities. But agents have long got away with it tenant advocate and qualified lawyer Jordan van den Berg told Yahoo News Australia.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find a renter who's inspected a property that looked exactly like the photos that they used in the listing. It's a major issue," said Van den Berg, who's known for calling out dodgy real estate practices online.

"Misleading and deceptive advertising is illegal federally in Australia. So when agents use a photo that's 10 years old to list a property that no longer looks anything like the property, that is objectively illegal. But the average person might not know that".

Pictures from 2016 showing the inside of a Melbourne rental property at Clifton Hill.
A listing for a Clifton Hill property in Victoria used images of the house from 2016 that did not match the current interior of the home. Source: Supplied/Jordan Van den Berg
Pictures of Melbourne rental property showing cracks, mould and old tiles.
The two-bedroom house had what looks like mould, cracks and even a plant growing down one of the walls. Supplied/Jordan Van den Berg

Reality of 'beautiful' home riddled with cracks and mould

A recent example Van den Berg was made aware of was a property in Clifton Hill, Victoria — described by the listing agent as a "beautiful" two-bedroom house. While photos shown in the listing depict a modern, new and well-kept house, the reality was sadly different with the rental advocate suggesting they were at least eight years old.

Pictures shared with Yahoo News show cracked walls and tiles with what appears to be mould present throughout. In one photo, a live plant is seen growing in the corner of one room — and it's just one example of many the rental advocate told Yahoo.

Crackdown on dishonest real estate behaviour

Consumer Affairs Victoria has a range of options available to address possible non-compliance with the law with the public often encouraged to report potential concerns, including reporting a property to them via their website. The governing agency confirmed to Yahoo News it takes matters of misleading properties seriously.

"Real estate agents are expected to act honestly and ensure that advertising depicts the property truthfully and fairly. This includes the use of photos that accurately depict the property available" a Consumer Affairs Victoria spokesperson told Yahoo."We encourage Victorians to report any perceived unfair business practices to us."

Screenshot of tweet by Purple Pingers.
Jordie, who goes by Purple Pingers on social media, shared the update online. Source: Reddit/X

'A step in the right direction'

Van den Berg has been reporting properties to Consumer Affairs for "quite a long time" he said and is "pretty stoked" by the attempt to finally weed out dishonesty across the real estate industry, and shared the news on social media. "It's certainly a step in the right direction," he told Yahoo.

"Renters know often that the places that they live don't meet the legal standards, but they also know that their alternative is homelessness. So they have to put up with it," he said. "That's the situation that they're in because there's no alternative. And if they speak up about it, they could face eviction"

Left: A group of people standing outside a rental property. Right: Terrace houses in Sydney
Australia is still experiencing a rental crisis with unaffordability and unavailability affecting Aussie renters. Source: Getty

Renters face 'far greater problems'

While it is a positive move, the issue of cost and availability remains, and in Van den Berg's opinion, there are "far greater problems".

"The biggest issue is the power imbalance that renters face. The fact that they can get evicted without course in Victoria," he said. "There's always going to be that threat kind of hanging over their head. And as a regulator, that's almost impossible to take any action for or against unless the government legislates around it. I think that's the biggest issue."

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