In light of the latest lockdown in England, Government have updated their guidance on home moving for both industry and consumers.
We know that safeagents are already adhering to Covid-19 safe procedures practices, but it is important to observe this latest guidance. The guidance is extensive and can be read in full here
Below are key points for agents:
Advice to industry
- All businesses should follow the government’s latest guidance for employers and businesses on COVID-19and safer working guidance.
- It is important that all businesses work together to ensure we stay alert to stay safeto minimise the spread of infection and we expect all sectors to consider how they can operate in a way which minimises the need for face to face contact.
- “Back to back” viewings of properties should be avoided, with sufficient time allowed between each viewing for the necessary cleaning to take place.
- All businesses should have measures in place to prepare for staff returning from countries on the list of those affected by the requirement to quarantine. Staff members will not be able to return to the office or meet clients and will need to work virtually where possible.
Agency offices can remain open to the public. Agents should inform customers and their own staff about their Covid-19 procedures, so that they are safe throughout the process.
- Agents should ask whether any party is showing symptoms or has been asked to self-isolate before going ahead with any viewing, or visits to offices.
- Agents should inform visitors to their offices of the need to wear face coverings. Agents should ensure their offices are ‘Covid secure’ and that they take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of the disease. See guidance on making the workplace secure. Agents should wear face coverings while in close face-to-face contact with visitors and where other protective measures are unlikely to be in place, such as in clients’ homes during a viewing. See guidance on face coverings.
- Agents should strongly encourage clients to view properties virtually in the first instance and then only physically inspect properties which they have a strong interest in.
- Where they do not accompany the visit, they should make sure that both buyers and sellers clearly understand how the viewing should be conducted safely.
- Agents should avoid driving clients to appointments. Advise clients to find alternative means of travel including public transport, walking, cycling or using their own vehicle. If this is not possible, follow the latest guidance on travelling safely with others including the use of a face mask and cleaning the vehicle regularly.
- All parties viewing a property should wash their hands with soap and water (or hand sanitiser if not available) immediately after entering the properties, with internal doors opened and surfaces having been wiped down before they enter. Separate towels or paper towels should be used if possible and washed or disposed of safely after use.
- Agents should do what they can to promote flexibility when arranging move dates, for example advising clients to ensure contracts have explicit terms to manage the timing risks presented by coronavirus.
- Agents should work with their clients and other agents to broker a new date to move where sales are due to complete and one of the parties falls ill with coronavirus or has to self-isolate.
- Agents should ensure that any keys are appropriately cleaned before handover.
- Agents should ask clients whether they have returned to the UK from one of the countries not on the exception list. If clients have returned from a country on the quarantine list, agents can continue to progress their home move virtually until the quarantine period is over. See guidance on returning to the UK.
Advice for buyers and renters
Where possible, you should use virtual viewings before visiting properties in person in order to minimise public health risks. If any member of either the household being viewed or the household undertaking a viewing is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or is self-isolating, then an in-person viewing should be delayed.
- We encourage buyers and renters to do their initial property searches online wherever possible. Initial viewings should also be done virtually, and in-person viewings should only take place when buyers are seriously considering a property.
- To support this, agents may ask home occupiers to conduct virtual viewings. This will help reduce the number of properties people need to visit before finding their future home.
- All viewings should be by appointment only and no open house viewings should take place.
- There are unlikely to be physical protection measures in place in homes. In this case we would advise estate and letting agents to wear a face covering.
- Members of the public who are viewing a property should wear a suitable face covering as described in government guidance unless they are exempt from this requirement. This should be confirmed with the agent before arrival. Anyone with concerns should contact the agent in advance of their visit to discuss appropriate measures.
- If your property is being viewed, you should open all the internal doors prior to the viewing and allow access to handwashing facilities and ideally separate towels/paper towels.
- We would recommend that you vacate your property whilst viewings are taking place in order to minimise unnecessary contact.
- When viewing a property, everyone should wash their hands and avoid touching surfaces where possible.
- We expect property agents to accompany clients on a viewing and follow social distancing guidance. Where viewings are unaccompanied, agents should make sure viewers and the occupants of the home understand how they should conduct themselves to protect their health and the health of others.
- Once the viewing has taken place, the occupant should ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned with standard household cleaning products and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate.
Further guidance for the PRS
Tenants, letting agents and landlords should be aware of and follow the government guidance on coronavirus and renting which contains further advice that may also be applicable such as on possession proceedings, repairs, maintenance and health and safety.