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Lockdown Plea: Let agents work in offices, not at home

One of the industry's senior agency leaders says it would be a mistake for agents to be stopped from working in offices if there is another full-scale lockdown in England.

Jeff Doble is chairman of Dexters, the London agency with some 1,500 staff in 70 offices across the capital: it has around 60,000 tenants under management as well.

The Welsh Government has this week told agents in that country to work from home for 16 days from the end of this Friday, and is insisting branch offices be closed.


Doble has told Estate Agent Today he is critical of the Welsh Government’s definition of agency staff as ‘non-essential retail’ and thus obliged to close; while he accepts offices may have to close to the public, he maintains staff have vitally important work to do in offices, which cannot be done from home.

"We’ve done some work with the RICS to try and ram home the point, our main concern is that this becomes perceived wisdom and spreads to England” Doble has told EAT. 

“Sadly there is a misconception as to what work goes on in our offices, behind the doors that are closed to the public. We don’t just have a couple of colleagues there waiting for people to drop in.

“The Welsh administration say that work in safe offices is acceptable but then say we can’t open them, which in London would put us in an impossible position.”

Dexters hit the headlines during the UK-wide spring lockdown, when social media reports and press articles appeared about some company staff continuing to work in offices. 

In fact the agency completed over 400 pre-arranged house moves in the early days of the UK lockdown, and set up back-office operations to service tenants - often with queries which, by law, the agency had to address.

Doble now says that experience should help form policy if there is a wider Wales-style lockdown across England or more specifically in London.

“We are pretty ‘essential’ if you and your family are one of thousands we’re helping move home next week or you’re one of our 60,000 tenants and you get a leaking roof or need a gas safety certificate. There is a vast amount of work we have to do locally that cannot be put off or done from the kitchen table. We are good at it and have well practiced, safe routines” he insists.

“On average all through the last lockdown we arranged over 100 new London Lettings every week to essential workers alone, people’s housing needs don’t just wait. 

“We are letting thousands of vacant properties in London currently and even in Wales it seems that tenants could still view those, as well as do virtual viewings. 

“Typically our customers want to see over 10,000 properties every week at the moment” he adds.  


Instead, he believes the Welsh Government now and any other UK administration handling a future lockdown should be more localised in their restrictions, and should be more understanding of the fundamental importance of housing market activity.

“In short, the Welsh should merely be saying that agents must be closed to the public and operate within the existing Government guidelines, putting off physical viewings of occupied property until after the fire break” he concludes. 

  • Matthew Gardiner Legge

    Very unusual for Jeff Doble to put his head above the parapet to make a public comment so it is interesting that he has done so now. It is becoming increasingly clear that the self employed Estate Agency model for which read, 'working from home/any time/any place' is gaining a serious foothold in the industry proving very much that estate agents are becoming increasingly LESS dependent upon high street offices of which Dexters have a great many.

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    • 21 October 2020 09:36 AM

    Never really thought about it before but when things are considered in the round EA/LA workers are actually essential workers.

    Without them what happens?

    It is still the case that the vast majority of property transactions and management are done so by EA/LA.

    They must be allowed to work.

  • Lyn Burgoyne

    Wealth over health! Mmm.... one of my staff tested positive, we closed the office the minute we knew and I asked all my staff and ourselves to get tested if they could or self isolate for 14 days. Due to previous lockdown we have sourced telecoms and laptops for this exact scenario. I did not expect my staff to work at all if they have covid or if they felt they could not work. My husband tested positive, I didn't but we have ran our office from home since 14th October. Our clients have been understanding and, if possible, have been conducting viewings. We have lost instructions, yes but my staff, my clients and my health comes first. I understand that you may believe a lock door policy works but you may still be passing the virus to other staff members, their families and the list goes on. We ALL have a responsibility to others, we all have to protect one another. Jeff, you could have set your agency up with one or two laptops where staff could work from home, you have had time...
    travelling to and from work may cause them to spread the virus... Preparation is the key word.
    Look after our staff and protect them.

    Algarve  Investor

    Well said!

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    I think all I would add to this conversation is the danger of another total lockdown, which the media are having *rgasms about! If the government impose similar to what we had in the spring, that will be the end of days for the economy of this country. Whilst the Welsh are being told it will be 16 days, it’s pretty obvious that will become months and besides, lockdowns don’t work. There will be massive redundancies (the gov’t job protection scheme barely papers over the cracks), people will therefore struggle to pay their mortgages and the banks will steam in and take people’s homes away from them. This will lead to mass civil disobedience and real riots on the streets.
    Sorry to appear to be a doom monger but that’s how I see it.

    • 21 October 2020 21:15 PM

    If banks try repossessing there will be a run on the banks as property values collapse.

    Banks would do well to avoid crystalising values.

    Far better to have mortgage payers pay what they can afford.
    It took years in the 90's before banks were able to realise asset value.

    In the meantime they became LL!!

    Banks repossess at their peril.
    This time Govt won't bail them out.
    It will rightly be shareholders that suffer.


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