The boss of controversial estate agency Dexters has hit out at social media reports and press articles about company staff working in the early stages of the Coronavirus lockdown.
Last week Dexters - which calls itself London’s leading independent agency with 35 offices in central London and 70 in total across the capital, plus an estimated 1,500 employees - told The Independent newspaper that its offices were closed to the public but open for staff who are "continuing to work through our website and on the phone”.
The agency was reported to have said that it believed much of the work done by the firm could not be undertaken by home workers.
Company chairman and founder Jeff Doble says in a new statement this morning: “Dexters has been the subject of misinformation started on social media which has ended up with wider reporting, resulting in deeply unfair allegations. We are a responsible business and a respected firm of chartered surveyors and Dexters has followed government Covid-19 guidelines to the absolute letter.”
He continues: “I am very proud of my colleagues who have supported our customers in completing over 400 pre-arranged house moves in the days following the lockdown announcement, enabling these households to now be in safe self isolation; whilst we also completely shut down within 48 hours.
“What we have now put in place is a small back-office operation, run from two secure premises, where we can now remotely help our 60,000 tenants across London who still need to be able to contact us with issues like payment of rent concerns or a broken boiler, and our tens of thousands of landlords to maintain safety items such as gas safety certificates which are required by law.”
And he adds: “The new government guidance published on the housing industry has given us all clarity and also illustrated the issues Dexters has been facing. It reiterates the advice we have been giving to our clients and customers. Whilst all Dexters offices are closed and staff are working remotely or are at home, helping and advising our many customers. We are relying on the goodwill of some of our colleagues who live locally and so haven’t far to travel, to be on hand to help customers who are committed to move, whilst working within all government guidelines, and also provide a keyholder service when emergency and safety work needs doing to our landlords’ properties.”
In a statement this morning the agency says that after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of the lockdown eight days ago, it closed its offices to the public, “reducing its staff to a skeleton, and within 48 hours fully closed down the firm’s 100 estate agency branches.”
The firm states that it paid all its staff in full for March on Monday March 23 and has now created a special hardship fund to help any staff having financial difficulties.
Of the company’s total of 1,500 employees, 95 per cent of the front office staff - over 1,420 people - were this week allocated to remain safely at home to ensure their health and welfare and to take them off the public transport network.
The remaining five per cent of what it calls “staff critical for the survival of the business” have now been allocated to work safely from two secure premises “which are not retail estate agency branches.”
It claims that at these two premises Dexters property management team and homeowner move-in team can take telephone calls and deal remotely with genuine customer emergencies or “severe-need situations” and that these locations operate two metre-plus social distancing rules and strict hygiene safeguarding procedures.