** This Bank Holiday Monday both Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today look at how agencies have modified offices and protocols to operate safely. There are separate examples on EAT and LAT so please check out both. Back to normal stories tomorrow, but in the meantime thanks to those who have contributed today. **
Our thanks to Haydar Sehri, managing director of east London agency Homefinders for sharing with readers his letter to clients.
He’s taking a different approach to some agencies - the office is not open at all and staff remain working from home, with the exception of a small number of highly safeguarded viewings.
Here is the letter he has sent to all of his lettings and sales clients:
I hope you and your families are keeping safe and well.
You may or may not be aware that the government very recently made a (somewhat controversial) announcement Estate Agencies in England could reopen their doors and conduct business, in a bid to keep the country and our economy moving.
In view of the government’s guidance to reopen Estate Agencies, we will do the following:
1. Our offices will remain closed to the public. We will only deal with enquiries via telephone, email or zoom meetings.
2. Our staff who can work from home will continue to work from home until further notice. If they cannot work from home for various reasons and happy to work from the office.
a. They will not use public transport to come to the office, if they live quite far, then they will have the use of our company car for commuting.
b. There will be only one person working from the office at any one time.
c. Offices will be closed to the public.
d. Staff working from office MUST clean handrails, door handles, switches, and anywhere else they touch during the day like printers, telephones etc at the end of each day.
3. We will not show any properties unless applicants watch the 360 degrees virtual tour first.
4. If after seeing the virtual tour and happy with the area, then we will do the due diligence before we book an appointment to view the property. Prospective tenants must fill out the Goodlord offer form and answer the Covid-19 related questions.
5. We will not do viewings where properties are currently tenanted.
6. We will only do viewings if the property is vacant.
7. Applicants will have to have their own mask and hand sanitisers and will be asked to clean their hands with sanitiser before entering the property and put the mask on. If applicants do not have them we will supply.
8. Viewings will be limited to a maximum of 2 people per household. Children are not permitted to come to viewings.
9. Our negotiators will open all the doors and windows and keep them open for the applicant, including any cupboard/storage doors and we would kindly ask applicants not to touch anything if possible.
10. Our negs will have masks and clean the door handles and surfaces before and after each viewing and will keep their distance, if it is not possible, they will not go into the property and just wait outside.
11. From then on if applicants are interested, we will do everything including contract signing online through Goodlord.
12. When handing over keys to new tenants the keys will be sanitised and placed in an envelope for them to collect, adhering to social distancing measures. Keys will be handed to one tenant if a joint tenancy.
13. If applicants agree to take the property with the virtual tour for tenanted properties, we will not allow anybody to move in on the same day the current tenants vacate, which we did quite a lot in the past. We will leave at least 3 days between tenancies.
14. Under the new guidance, landlords are obliged to clean/sanitise the property before a new tenant moves in.
15. The management team will carry on working from home.
16. We stopped doing inspections from 1st March, and we will not start inspections until we feel it is safe to do so. In the meantime, we will ask tenants to show us the property on a video conference (if we can).
17. As for maintenance, the government is now saying we should deal with maintenance issues, within reason. We only dealt with emergencies up to now, but if the tenant is happy for other essential works to be carried out we will organise the contractors. But if it is not essential, we will not do it until it is safe to do so.
Sales and letting valuations:
We will do the valuations but only where we are absolutely certain that we will be able to practice safe social distancing, we will also be carrying out risk assessments on a case by case basis to make sure we are not putting anybody in harm’s way.
I also believe it very important to stress that we fully understand that many people will not yet be fully comfortable with going to view properties internally, likewise many people could be uncomfortable with having one of our team members inside their properties in person for a face to face valuations. It is with this I must point out that we will still be offering both virtual viewings and valuations indefinitely in order to ensure we are providing the right service for all of our clients no matter what
On a positive note, the property market itself has seen an unprecedented rise in demand for properties of all kinds in our local areas, as people have clearly had a lot of time to re-evaluate their current living situations and as previously mentioned now looking to upsize/downsize/find more outside space etc.
Finally, please rest assured that every decision we have made and will make in the near future will be one with health and safety at the forefront of our minds.
As always if you have questions or queries please do not hesitate to contact me, and above all stay safe.