Real estate agent slammed for wearing body cam during inspection: 'Is this legal?'

A tenant has shared an email advising them of the body cam policy, sparking a heated debate about the legality of the move.

A controversial move by a real estate agency has been brought into question after a Queensland tenant shared an email she received from her agent online.

Staff from the unnamed agency would now be required to wear body cameras at all rental inspections moving forward, the email says. "This is not only for the safety of our staff but the protection and peace of mind of you and our property," it adds.

The tenant questioned if "this is a new thing" and wondered what led to the drastic move — one that's both "problematic" and "concerning", experts told Yahoo News Australia.

The email said "camera recordings will be active during all routine inspections to ensure public and staff safety" and footage would be provided to police should an incident occur. The proposal sparked outrage among tenants on Facebook with its legality being questioned.

Real estate email stating body cams to be work (left) female real estate agent conducting house tour with male (right)
The email from an unnamed agent (left) said all staff would wear body cams during inspections. (right, file picture). Source: Facebook/Getty

Renters divided over controversial move

"Surely a tenant is within their rights to decline body cam recordings in their own home; I already think photos are invasive enough," one said.

"Surely you have a right to say you don't want to be recorded," another agreed" — but others suggested it's a "great idea" and can benefit both parties.

"Honestly, it’s probably not a bad idea. The thought of going into strangers' homes, even on a professional basis, is a scary one. I’m sure 99% of their clients are brilliant and wouldn’t be a problem at all but the others," one said.

"I’d hate to see what has happened for them to bring this in," the added. "I wouldn’t mind if my real estate brought this in at all."

Another said they "wished" their own agent wore a body cam during inspections. "Just so they could hear how a certain person spoke to the tenants," they said. A third said it was a "fantastic idea".

Rise in Queensland crime likely to blame

Offering a different perspective, one said the move is likely warranted, particularly with the drastic rise in crime across the state in recent years.

"This seems crazy but as someone who is a lone worker that goes into people's homes, it can be really dangerous when you don't know what you're walking into. Seems like an extreme move but I'd say it's based on an incident that occurred," they said.

Is the use of body cams during an inspection legal?

Australian property law expert Olivia Barr said it's certainly an "interesting scenario" and one that's pretty "problematic" — for several reasons. While she can't comment on specific Queensland legislation — being an Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne — she says there's clear "tension between the use of body cams and privacy rights where body cams are being portrayed as 'safety' and 'security'."

"In a home context, there is a specific right called a right to peaceful possession, which is part of a tenant’s right of possession under a lease," she explained. "Introducing body cams without the tenants' consent certainly raises legal issues, but when it comes to the specific scenario, there may be statutory rules in Queensland that make this behaviour acceptable or not, so I can’t comment on the specifics without knowing more."

A photo of a typical Queensland house in Brisbane.
A Queensland tenants' association says the move to introduce body cam at inspections presents a range of issues. Source: Getty Images.

Agent's move 'oversteps the mark' says expert

Penny Carr, Tenants Queensland CEO, said the agent's response is a "pretty overzealous" one, and unless a tenant consents, it presents a range of issues.

"If the intention is to film the whole inspection, that does seem to me to overstep the mark," she told Yahoo. "We've seen agents taking photographs and that's created some concern for tenants. People don't want their goods or any information about how they live or what they own used in any public forum."

Why filming is different to taking inspection photos

The original poster said "I don’t really think it’s much different to them taking photos," but Ms Carr disagrees.

"The purpose of a photograph might be to show an overseas owner the condition of the property — you could maybe understand those photographs," she said. "But to film an entire inspection is beyond what's required to ensure that the property is being maintained".

But if tenants are subjected to this, Mrs Carr suggests using it to their advantage.

"They should be pointing out all the things that need repairing in the property [while being filmed], because one of the frustrations for tenants is that they have these inspections and point things out, but they never get fixed".

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