Agencies can reopen for business and house moves can take place from 13 May 2020, the government has confirmed. However, agents will need to carefully consider both how and when they reopen their premises and how they will manage the lettings process.
The government guidance notes that, despite restrictions on moving home being lifted, “this does not represent a return to normality”. The advice remains that people should be staying at home as much as possible, including working from home if they can, limiting contact with other people, maintaining social distancing, washing your hands regularly, and not leaving home if they or anyone in their household has symptoms.
This means that agents will have to “adapt their practices and procedures to ensure that the risk of spread of coronavirus is reduced as far as possible," which will first of all require you to carry out a risk assessment on your workplace. You’ll need to inform both your staff and your customers about your new procedures, so that they are safe throughout the lettings process.
The government has issued advice for agents on how to manage office visits, viewings, and check-ins during this time:
- 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 use an appointment system for visits to their offices and when conducting viewings.
- Agents should not carry out open house viewings.
- Agents should strongly encourage clients to view properties virtually and only physically visit properties they have a strong interest in.
- Agents can accompany physical viewings but should try to maintain a minimum of 2m distance from others wherever possible. Where social distancing is not possible and the visit is within an enclosed space, they should consider wearing a face covering.
- If agents do not accompany a physical viewing, they should make sure that clients clearly understand how the viewing should be conducted safely.
- Agents should not drive clients to appointments.
- Internal doors should be opened and surfaces should have been wiped down before clients enter a property. Separate towels or paper towels should be used if possible and washed or disposed of safely after use.
- All parties viewing a property should wash their hands with soap and water (or hand sanitiser, if soap and water isn’t available) immediately after entering the properties.
- 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 arrange a new move-in date where transactions are due to complete if one of the parties falls ill with coronavirus or has to self-isolate.
- Agents should ensure that any keys are appropriately cleaned before handover.
This article is intended as a guide only and is based on the government’s guidance on home moving during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Please refer to gov.uk for more information.