Melbourne’s commercial property inspection ban stays for now

15 Collins St was vacated by clothing brand Wolford.
15 Collins St was vacated by clothing brand Wolford.

Commercial property inspections remain banned in Melbourne, despite the key restriction easing for residential listings on Monday.

One-on-one physical inspections of offices, retail stores, warehouses, cafes, restaurants, and other commercial listings are still off-limits under Victoria’s coronavirus road map.

CBRE head of retail leasing Zelman Ainsworth said it was a surprise to the industry that rules had not loosened for residential and commercial properties at the same time, as originally outlined by the state government.

He said the ban was a blow to many “struggling” Melbourne landlords who had lost tenants during the pandemic.

“The longer it takes to get face-to-face meetings again, the longer it will take to start filling shops,” Ainsworth said.

“We had a number of pent-up inspections and meetings we were hoping to lock-in for this week and it’s very disappointing we have to hold off.”

Vacant stores would likely stay empty until inspections returned, hurting the CBD and inner-city retail strips that had been particularly damaged by the pandemic, he said.

“Both tenants and landlords are eager to start doing business, but the limitations are creating delays,” Ainsworth said.

“It’s really hard to plan for what’s next as the rules seem to be changing.”

Lord of the Fries at 55 Swanston St has closed, with the building up for rent.

WB Simpson & Sons partner Richard Simpson said the industry was “very disappointed” by the move to distinguish commercial and residential properties in the coronavirus road map.

“Lots of landlords have empty properties that they can’t lease, and many of these landlords have lost their jobs or are self-funded retirees,” Simpson said.

“Government support for self-funded retirees is minimal, so a lot of people are hurting.”

Large and vacant commercial spaces were in many ways “safer” to inspect than private homes, he added.

Royal Arcade shops 43 and 45 are up for lease after clothing retailers vacated.

“We’re advocating for the government to reconsider the decision immediately, but at a minimum allow commercial inspections to return at the next step of the road map,” he said.

Simpson also noted regional Victoria’s coronavirus road map kept rules consistent for commercial and residential listings.

The Real Estate Institute of Victoria confirmed it was meeting with state government officials and advocating for coronavirus rules to allow private physical inspections for all property types.

The Department of Health and Human Services was contacted for comment.

The iconic spot is still looking for a tenant.

REA Group chief economist Nerida Conisbee said there was pent-up demand from investors for Melbourne’s commercial listings.

“There is still a lot of confidence that things will return to normal in Melbourne after the pandemic … there’s a belief that the city will bounce back,” Conisbee said.

“Retail figures did see a sharp recovery after the first lockdown, so there are a lot of people still willing to make a big investment in the city.”

This article from the Herald Sun originally appeared as “Commercial property inspection ban remains in Melbourne”.