Taking photos in a rental property

28 Mar 2022

In this episode of Talking Tenancies, the RTA’s Christian Herrmann guides us through all we need to know when it comes to taking photos in a rental property.


Host: Belinda Heit, Communication and Education, RTA

Guest: Christian Hermann, Quality and Training, RTA

Host: Welcome to the Talking Tenancies podcast. Brought to you by the Residential Tenancies Authority, I'm your host, Belinda Heit. Join me as we explore everything you need to know about renting in Queensland with experts from the RTA and industry. We're here to help make renting work for everyone. 

At different stages of a tenancy, a property manager or owner or prospective buyer/tenant may want to take photos inside and outside of the rental property for various reasons, such as to advertise a property for sale or re-let, or during inspections for records and as supporting evidence for formal documentation like entry and exit condition reports. Today's expert from the RTA is Christian Hermann. Welcome Christian. 

Guest: Thank you. 

Host: Now, can you tell us about your role at the RTA and what you're responsible for? 

Guest: So, I originally started in the contact centre, stayed there for five years and now I'm in the quality and training role. So, I listen to phone calls and monitor any kind of trends that come through, like any hot topics that we might discuss. Like if there's flooding,  things like that as well. 

Host: So today we're talking about taking photos in a rental property, so when we're taking photos in a rental property, we will require sensitivity and considerations from both tenants and property managers or owners. What would you recommend in this situation? 

Guest: Well, the main concern a lot of people actually have around photos being taken of their home is, no matter what the purpose is, around privacy pretty much. And I'm sure all of us can understand the importance of protecting our privacy. Where we should be able to expect some kind of privacy in our own homes that we are renting.  Generally, photos being taken can be unsettling for some people as they don't know where those photos will be saved or how they will be used or who's going to see them as well. So open communication is very important in this circumstance. Also, under the Queensland tenancy law, property managers and owners have a responsibility to protect the privacy of their tenant, like making sure that locks are secure and seeking permission to enter the premises. Tenants also have a right to quiet enjoyment of the rental premises, which doesn't mean noisy. It just means that the tenants are entitled their reasonable peace, comfort and privacy, and they must be able to make full and undisturbed use of the rental premises.  

Host: Yeah, so you can just you know, live in peace and quiet and like you say, not necessarily not noisy but just without any disruption.  

Guest: Yes, exactly 

Host: So when taking photos for advertising a rental property, what are the important things that we need to be aware of? 

Guest: So when a property is being advertised for sale or also to be re-let as well, photos or videos may be needed to be taken of the rental property, internally or externally, for promotional purposes. There are quite few important things to be aware of in this situation. So, the Queensland tenancy law states that it is the responsibility of the property managers and owners or the sales agent to have written permission from the tenant to use photos or videos that display the tenants' belongings. So now the tenants' belongings can refer to a wide range of items, so it could be including furniture, appliances, vehicles, especially family photos or any other personal items. Getting the written consent to use the photos is super important. Be mindful, that just because the tenant allows the photographer to enter their home does not mean they're actually consenting to the photos showing their possessions, to be used. There are two different types of consent involved in these situations there's the permission of someone to be entering the rental property and then there's permission for those photos to be used with their belongings displayed on it as well. So, they don't mean the same thing, they're separate to each other. Saying yes to one does not equally say yes to the other. It is really important for the property managers or owners to get written consent for both entering the premises and to use the photos taken to make sure that they are in the clear and everyone is on the same page. 



Host: Yeah, that's good to know. So, what about photography during an open house or a private viewing? Is that any different? 

Guest: Yes, so that is that is a good question, and it is completely different again. It's not unusual for a tenant to still be living in the premises during an open home or when there's a private viewing, so prospective buyers or tenants should always check with the occupants first, just as a common courtesy. This kind of avoids the assumption that the people viewing or inspecting the property can take their own photos. So, if you put yourself in the other persons’ shoes, it's quite easy to see that, you know, it could be somewhat stressful and emotional for those who are still living in the property as well.  Because it is, you know, it is technically their home that they're renting. I would actually feel quite uncomfortable if I entered a stranger's home and then started taking photos without their permission.  

On the other hand, if I was living in the property, I definitely feel that my privacy was being violated if a lot of strangers were coming through and taking photos straight away at my home and my stuff that is still either on display or being packed up, without asking first. So, if there is an open home or a private viewing coming up, we encourage tenants and property managers and owners to discuss what they're comfortable with ahead of time. This way both parties can negotiate and establish some ground rules and agree on guidelines to manage requests around photographs that might pop up.  

The discussion you may want to consider is if the prospective buyer or tenants can be referred back to photos that are being used in the advertisement or promotion of the property, do they really need to take their own photos?  If the tenant has made that boundary, can identifying features or personal belongings be removed temporarily for the duration of the viewing or the open home for photos if a certain area is requested? So, if the tenant could remove such items that might be on display or might be valuable as well.  

Having good communication around these guidelines on the photographs, it can paint a good picture for the property manager or owner that shows a prospective tenant how their privacy will be respected and taken care of while they're occupying the premises. When done right, it can be a win-win situation for everyone involved. 

Host: Yeah, and that's a big theme that comes out through this podcast, that communication is the number one thing that is really important in a tenancy from both parties. But yeah, you know if you do find yourself in that situation, you do have some options, so just communicate and if you've got valuables, make sure you put them away. Because if they get captured in the photos, then there goes your privacy and security. Photos taken during routine inspections have a different purpose. What rules apply here? 

Guest: Absolutely spot on, Belinda. So routine inspections happen during the tenancy to ensure that property is looked after by the tenant. It is the owner's investment property and you want to make sure that the investment is in good hands. It also provides an opportunity for the property manager and owner to check for anything that needs to be repaired or maintained. It's common practise for a property manager or owner to take a few photos as part of their routine inspection for reporting process, especially if there are maintenance items or damage that they need to address or when a significant breach has been identified. The photos can help them show the property owner the current condition of the item and the extent of the damage. So, this is important as well.  

Currently with the floods that have happened, having these photos from a routine inspection can be really helpful to get issues in the property addressed a lot quicker. The photos could be useful and help facilitate the process of when the property manager or owner needs to obtain quotes from tradesmen, or it could be insurance assessors as well. The RTA also encourages tenants and property managers and owners to take photos at the beginning and at the end of the tenancy to document the condition of the property through the tenancy, especially when you're completing an entry condition report. The photos will be evidence that help check that the property is returned to the same condition, less fair wear and tear, so the vacate inspection is another one of those situations where photos may be taken. Of course, property managers and owners should inform the tenant of their reporting process when photos are involved. Tenants should raise any concerns with the property manager or owner prior to those inspections.  

Host: Yeah, I really can't stress enough the importance of taking those photos on an entry condition and exit condition report, because as you know everybody judges things differently, so you know a picture paints a thousand words. So, if you can take those photos, it's really going to give you that evidence that you need to help you get your bond back as well. 

Guest: Yeah, exactly. 

Host: Now what time frame do property managers need to give tenants to enter to take those photos? 

Guest: That's a good question, another good question.  So, there are no specific guidelines about gaining entry to a premises to take photos. The property manager/owner or the sales agent may consider obtaining the tenants permission by way of a mutual agreement to enter the tenancy. If the photos are taken as part of a routine inspection, then the rules of entry for a routine inspection apply and the tenant should be informed of the photograph ahead of the inspection. A clause around photo taking may be listed in the special terms of their tenancy agreement as well.  

Host: Yeah, so it's a good idea to check those special terms and, you know, if it is listed there. 

Guest: Yeah, exactly. 

Host: Now, can a tenant stop a managing party from taking photos of the rental property? 

Guest: Alright, so with this one here, well I would say that the tenant and the property manager should discuss why the photos are required in the first instance.  Each situation is different and should be considered on a case-by-case basis. If the property is to be advertised using those photos showing the tenants possessions as we mentioned before, written permission to use such photos may be sought from the tenant. To protect the privacy and security of the tenant, photos that would identify the tenant, whether through their possessions, their furniture, family photos or even the vehicle registration or type, should be first discussed directly between the tenant and the property manager or the owner.  They should communicate openly and transparently with each other and try to get an understanding of each other's perspectives. So, putting them in their shoes, which would be good. It's important to be reasonable and realistic in the negotiations and work together to find a mutually agreeable solution.  

Property managers and owners should have the processes in place in relation to secure collection, storage and use of the personal information, including photographs. These processes should be communicated to the tenant, as it can provide them with peace of mind. I would definitely be more inclined to agree to photos being taken of my home if I knew what the photos would look like, that they would only be used in certain circumstances and any specific purposes, that they were stored securely, where only a small number of people would access them. 

Host: You know that's really important to get that mutual understanding on what they're for and where they're going to be stored. Again, it comes back to that privacy and security. So what options are there if the tenant does not provide consent for photos showing their possessions? 

Guest: If a tenant does not provide consent for photos of the property that show their possessions, you can use external images showing the front and rear of the rental property that does not include vehicles or items identifying the tenant. Internal photos may include the kitchen, the dining room, the bathroom or living area, where there are no identifying features such as family photos, personal possessions, furniture, appliances. 

Host: Also, what about when both parties can't agree on taking photos of the rental property? 

Guest: If you can't come to an agreement on taking photos of the property, our dispute resolution service may be able to help. You can request a dispute resolution online at RTA Web services or by submitting a paper dispute resolution request form

Host: So, what is the best thing to do if you're a tenant concerned about your privacy and security when photos are being taken at the property that you're renting? 

Guest: Yeah, so the best thing to do is definitely start a conversation early with your property manager or the owner and work together to find suitable solutions to the situation. Remember that maintaining privacy is key when photos are involved, so it's best for both parties to address each other's concerns openly and efficiently. If you're a tenant and would like to ask questions about the photos, for example, how those photos are going to be used or where they will be published, who's going to see them, how they're going to be stored, what the process is for consenting the photos to be used, or if your written consent can be sought every time before the photos are used and if you could see the specific photos which will be used as part of the consent process. Definitely take this opportunity to discuss some ground rules and agree on some guidelines. 

Host: So, if people would like to find out more, where can they go? 

Guest: So interesting, it's really good 'cause there are some good fact sheets on our website. You can download fact sheets about taking photos in a rental property, which outlines respective rights and responsibilities for tenants, property managers and owners on our website. And of course, you can revisit this podcast at any time on demand. 

Host: That's right, you absolutely can. And we have so many great resources on our website, so check it out at www.rta.qld.gov.au. Thank you so much Christian, for helping us to get a greater understanding on what we need to know when it comes to taking photos in a rental property. 

Guest: Thanks for having me. 

Host: Thank you for listening to the Talking Tenancies podcast. For more information about the Residential Tenancies Authority, visit rta.qld.gov.au.

Original publication on 28 Mar 2022
Last updated on 28 Jun 2022

Note: While the RTA makes every reasonable effort to ensure that information on this website is accurate at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after publication may impact on the accuracy of material. This disclaimer is in addition to and does not limit the application of the Residential Tenancies Authority website disclaimer.