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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Agents accused of breaking lockdown before new rules announced

Details being presented to Parliament today may include information on how agents can return to work in some sort of ‘new normal.’

A 50 page report has been prepared which will be put to MPs this afternoon covering outline 'back to work' policies for a number of industries; these will be fleshed out in separate sector guidelines to be published in the next week.

During his television address last evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said industry leaders across all major sectors would imminently receive guidance on how to become ‘Covid secure’.

Separately, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has said that current restrictions have left some families “stuck in homes no longer suitable for them” and that he intends to ease those restrictions - without giving any details.

The lockdown has already been fraying around the edges in terms of estate agents’ activities.

Several agents have been in touch with Estate Agent Today in recent days alleging rivals in their respective areas have been conducting viewings or opening their offices contrary to lockdown guidelines.

The contacts follow EAT’s story last week that an agency in Gloucester was the first to have opened its branch to the public, with social distancing and other measures in place, and apparently with local council blessing.

The new allegations reaching EAT refer to agents as far apart as Plymouth, Swansea, London, Manchester and Lanarkshire. 

Two claims refer to agents opening offices - although there is uncertainty amongst those contacting EAT as to whether members of the public were involved. The others refer to viewings, with online agents mentioned as frequent but not sole ‘offenders’. 

Guidance on viewings appears clear cut with NAEA Propertymark saying: “Under the current public health guidance in-person viewings are not permitted and should be delayed.” However, several agents have spoken openly of conducting viewings of empty properties, claiming these to be safe so long as social distancing is respected.

One agent told EAT: “This is not a level playing field when myself and my colleagues are telling prospective sellers that we are unable to carry out these appointments. XXX and XXX will probably say it was okay as the property was empty but I believe it still goes against the current government guidelines regards non-essential travel. I would be interested to hear what other agents thought of this work being carried out.”

Some agents say their rivals have gone further and conducted surveys and viewings of properties still currently occupied, although it is unknown whether the owners were on the premises when the surveys and viewings were allegedly conducted. 

One specific allegation by an agent contacting EAT refers to viewings being conducted recently by an online agent who, back in March, went on to social media to report that he was suffering symptoms of Coronavirus, referring to his having a fever and urging those he had been in contact with to watch for symptoms.

The complaints from agents follow this story about Liddington Bone Property, a single-office sales and lettings agency in Gloucester, which opened its doors to the public on Wednesday of last week and adopted a ‘one in, one out’ policy. 

  • Andrew Stanton Proptech Real Estate Influencer - Analyst - CEO Proptech-PR

    I think there will be more clarity in the real estate sector by the end of next week, but the worst situation would be a bun fight, and a mixed response to how to go about a new Covid-19 protocol in the industry.

    The other factor is of course the general public - which way will they go - and of course the Bank of England talking about the worst recession for three-centuries is not too helpful. Commerce is built on confidence and certainty and often sentiment, as ever it will be a case of cautiously moving forward.

    In my 35-years in the industry we have never been at these crossroads before, war, recession, inflation, deflation, yes - but a global pandemic with no cure - well that is new territory, one silver lining some of the companies in certain proptech verticals are doing business at an exponential rate, so maybe this can help agents go about business safely.

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    A typical British Government mish-mash (whichever party in power). The acid test for this is what PEOPLE will be allowed to do and from the advice issued yesterday they will still not be able to visit non-essential places therefore they could be prosecuted for viewing properties. Let's see this afternoon and tomorrow morning and keep our fingers crossed.

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