What Real Estate Agents Can and Can’t Do During Routine Property Inspections of Tenanted Properties in South Australia

Understanding the scope of what real estate agents can and can’t do during routine property inspections of tenanted properties is crucial for both tenants and landlords. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the regulations and best practices in South Australia, ensuring that inspections are conducted legally and respectfully. By shedding light on this process, we hope to foster a better understanding and smoother interactions between tenants, landlords, and agents.

Legal Framework for Property Inspections in South Australia

The Residential Tenancies Act 1995 governs the conduct of property inspections in South Australia. This act outlines the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and landlords, ensuring that inspections are conducted fairly and respectfully. The South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) provides additional guidelines to ensure compliance with these regulations.

Real estate agents, acting on behalf of landlords, must adhere to these legal standards. Understanding these guidelines helps tenants know what to expect and assures landlords that their properties are being inspected correctly.

Purpose of Routine Property Inspections

Routine property inspections serve several important purposes:

  1. Maintenance Checks: Ensuring that the property is being maintained properly and identifying any necessary repairs.
  2. Tenant Welfare: Checking that the living conditions are safe and habitable for tenants.
  3. Property Condition: Monitoring the overall condition of the property to address issues early, preventing more significant problems later.

In South Australia, these inspections typically occur quarterly, but the exact frequency can vary based on the lease agreement and the landlord’s requirements.

Boundaries and Permissions: What Agents Can Do

During a routine inspection, agents are allowed to:

  • Inspect Common Areas: This includes living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and any shared spaces to ensure they are in good condition.
  • Check Structural Elements: Walls, floors, ceilings, and windows are inspected for any signs of damage or wear that may need addressing.
  • Review Safety Features: Smoke detectors, security systems, and other safety features are checked to ensure they are functioning correctly.

Agents must provide tenants with a minimum of seven days’ written notice before conducting an inspection. This notice should specify the date and time of the inspection, allowing tenants to prepare accordingly.

Respecting Tenant Privacy: What Agents Can’t Do

Real estate agents must respect tenant privacy during inspections. This includes:

  • Avoiding Personal Belongings: Agents should not inspect personal items such as clothing, personal documents, or other private possessions.
  • Not Entering Private Areas: Unless necessary and with permission, agents should not open cupboards, drawers, or any storage areas containing personal items.
  • Limiting Intrusion: Inspections should be as non-intrusive as possible, focusing on the property’s condition rather than the tenant’s lifestyle.

Respecting these boundaries helps maintain a good relationship between tenants and landlords, fostering a sense of trust and respect.

Protocol for Inspecting Specific Areas

When inspecting specific areas, agents should follow these protocols:

  • Kitchens and Bathrooms: Agents can check for signs of leaks, mold, or damage in these areas. If they need to inspect inside cupboards (e.g., under the sink for plumbing issues), they should ask for permission first.
  • Bedrooms and Living Areas: These areas are inspected for general condition and cleanliness. Agents should not look inside wardrobes or personal storage areas without explicit permission.
  • Exterior Spaces: Gardens, garages, and outdoor areas are inspected for maintenance issues. Agents should respect any private storage spaces within these areas.

Tenants’ Rights During Property Inspections

Tenants have specific rights during property inspections:

  • Advance Notice: Tenants must receive at least seven days’ written notice before an inspection.
  • Right to Be Present: Tenants can choose to be present during the inspection, which can help address any immediate questions or concerns.
  • Right to Privacy: Tenants can deny access to certain areas if they feel their privacy is being compromised.

Understanding these rights helps tenants feel more secure and informed about the inspection process.

What Should Agents Do If They Need to Look in Cupboards?

If there is a legitimate need for agents to inspect inside cupboards or other private areas, they should follow these steps:

  1. Request Permission: Politely ask the tenant for permission to inspect the specific area, explaining the reason (e.g., checking for plumbing leaks).
  2. Document the Request: Keep a record of the request and the tenant’s response to ensure transparency and accountability.
  3. Be Respectful: Conduct the inspection quickly and respectfully, ensuring minimal disruption to the tenant.

This approach ensures that inspections are thorough while respecting the tenant’s privacy.

Practical Examples

Here are some practical examples of how these guidelines are applied:

  • Inspecting a Leaky Sink: If an agent needs to check for a potential leak under the kitchen sink, they should inform the tenant about the issue and ask for permission to open the cupboard. The agent should then document the tenant’s consent and proceed with the inspection respectfully.
  • Checking Smoke Detectors: During an inspection, the agent may need to test smoke detectors. This is typically done quickly and does not require access to personal belongings, ensuring it is non-intrusive.
  • Assessing Exterior Maintenance: For outdoor areas, the agent may need to inspect garden sheds or storage units. Permission should be sought if these spaces contain personal items, and the inspection should focus solely on the property’s condition.


Routine property inspections are essential for maintaining the condition of tenanted properties and ensuring tenant safety. By understanding what real estate agents can and can’t do during these inspections, both tenants and landlords can ensure a respectful and compliant process. Clear communication, respect for privacy, and adherence to legal guidelines are key to successful property inspections.

Additional Resources and Further Reading

For further information, consider the following resources:


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