An agency in London which was stung by fierce criticism in the spring lockdown has announced its policy for branch activity for the next four weeks.
During the spring Dexters, which has 70 branches across the capital, opened some because it insisted staff had to work locally attending to issues such as rental properties requiring maintenance work. However, this attracted criticism from London politicians and high-profile publicity in the Evening Standard.
Now the agency has issued a lengthy statement saying what it’s going to do in the autumn lockdown beginning on Thursday.
It will close its offices to the public, with no unannounced walk-ins from the public or third parties allowed; some staff will work inside the branches “safely shielded” with “strict social distancing rules and stringent hygiene safeguarding procedures in place.”
Dexters says most of its staff live locally to their branches “and therefore can walk or cycle, others travel to work either off peak on public transport or in the safety of cars.”
It says that depending on circumstances “viewings and valuations are available at Dexters both through video and in some circumstances physically, using strict processes that have been working well since May.”
And the Dexters statement asserts: “This fully complies with updates from Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick who has confirmed that the housing market will remain open during November on the basis that strict government guidance is followed. The guidance, issued during the last lockdown and updated in August, allows estate agents to carry out their work safely.”
Dexters chief executive Andy Shepherd says recent months have given the agency the changes to “fine-tune our Covid-Secure working practices, keeping our colleagues and customers safe.”
He continues: ”We've reinforced how we keep our workplaces safe for our colleagues and how we can keep working for our customers during this challenging time."
“We are confident that our business can continue serving customers and employing people, whilst also ensuring that closed offices, shielding and social distancing, supports our effort to help to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread, putting a downward pressure on the R-rate which is what the second lockdown needs to achieve.”
Dexters chairman Jeff Doble recently told Estate Agent Today that he was critical of the Welsh lockdown which has involved agents working from home.
He is critical of the Welsh Government classifying estate agency staff in that country as ‘non-essential retail’ and thus obliged to close.
"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 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.”