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First agent reopens High Street branch to the public

An estate agent has reopened his High Street office to the public with social distancing and other safety measures in place.

It’s thought this could be the first agency in the country to resume business this way.

Liddington Bone Property, a single-office sales and lettings agency in Gloucester, opened its doors this morning and has set up a series of precautions, EAT has been told by director Alistair Bone.


Only two members of staff are on the premises - Bone himself and one other - and there is a barrier so clients can register safely; several desks have been removed and the layout of the office means any visitor is around eight metres away from staff.

There are separate doors for the public to enter and leave.

Bone told EAT that he had been informed by his insurer, Hiscox, that it would not pay out on business interruption insurance because the agency could in fact open so long as it respected government guidelines.

Bone checked this out with his local council which agreed that he could operate under the rules he suggested - two staff, social distancing, and easily available hand sanitiser.

“There are a lot of grey areas and this is one of them, but I checked with the council which gave its go ahead. I’ve visited the office regularly anyway so this is a progression” he explains.

“On Monday I had 68 calls to respond to so there is business about and I have sold two homes since lockdown. I’m the only person in the firm to conduct viewings and they’ve been purely on empty properties and all at a safe distance. I’ve been observing government guidelines at all times” he adds.


The move by Liddington Bone may prove something of a test case.

On March 24 Propertymark was told by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government that agents should shut their offices immediately as they were not “essential businesses” under the then-new Coronavirus safety guidance.

A statement from Propertymark at the time said: "Propertymark has spoken to a senior civil servant at Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) this morning. 

"The civil servant stated that agents are not 'essential businesses' under the new rules and therefore their view is that agents should close their offices immediately.

"Furthermore, they stated that there should not be any in-person viewings, routine inspections or house moves."

Poll: Is it right to re-open a High Street branch now?


  • Michael Brain

    How silly , for god sake why can’t they just operate from home , they’ll all moan when there’s another lockdown because the death toll will rise again , I have a multi branch site we have staff working from home and it’s working well , I just can’t understand the mentality , you can’t go and value , you can’t do viewings , so why you need to open your office , divert your phone to home and work from there

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    Almost as if his main claim is how clever he is to find some ambiguity in the rules. There's a lot of ambiguity if you look for it mate! Just stick to the clear broad rules!

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    • M P
    • 06 May 2020 11:30 AM

    Why is he going against Government rules? He will be told to shut down once the other local agents start calling the local constabulary! Complete tom foolery

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    Says two things - "I need money, help" and "that's all its about... money"... shut up shop, enjoy the time at home, there is no reason at all to open to the public for now other than desperation.

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    Had his five minutes of fame and everyone basically thinks he is a dickhead!

  • Simon Shinerock

    Manchester United is doing something similar, the challenge is in defence not attack

  • David Bennett

    or is that Bone head!

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    Forgive the unprofessional response.

    You are a tosser.

  • Bryan Mansell

    Come on respect the rules as a responsible business owner like the rest of us

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    This is encouraging people to come out of their homes to the High Street unnecessarily - that just doesn't comply with current rules. Buying a house to me does not feel like essential travel. Is he doing a complete clean down of the premises after every member of the public has been in to see him? What about the properties visited, are they being cleaned as well?

  • Craig Reynolds

    Whoever at the Council approved that needs to explain themselves (if they exist), if they have approved this they should have communicated that to the other agents in their region. This agent needs to be ordered to close and observe the lockdown measures with the rest of the industry, it is being opportunistic at the worst of times.

  • Carl Smales

    I understand that they are trying to make money but I suspect the public perception of this could have the reverse effect.

    I would imaging their competitors using this again them after lockdown.

    I think this is a very poor decision personally.

  • Robert Ulph

    Any Estate Agent office that opens is breaking the rules and is encouraging people who go to the office to break the rules. Going to buy a house isn't essential business !!!!! it should close and work from home like all the rest of us.

  • Nigel Adams

    The rules are crystal clear from central government and have nothing to do with the local concil. His office should not be open. He should not be viewing empty properties.

  • Matthew Payne

    Anyone who doesnt think we are in for a huge second wave and second lockdown needs to be giving that some serious consideration as real possibility sadly. The virologists have said it would be likely anyway and only the most disciplined followed lockdowns and a bit of luck, the snuff out as they call it, would prevent one. The quality of social distancing out there is frankly a joke, essential seems to have become a word less and less people understand, and then when you combine that with the accepted risk that social distancing simply won't be possible in many environments (small estate agency offices with one door for example) and with reckless behavior like this, how could it not? HMG should start to be far more honest with the public about how bad this could get if people dont strictly follow the guidelines to the letter. Its all too nanny state at the moment and wave 2 and lockdown 2 will be far more damaging for peoples health and wealth.

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    This is the problem at the moment - some agents, some of the public etc seem to be self unlocking themselves. It's illegal - has the bloke got no morals or any idea that he could kill someone by a viewer passing on the disease. I hope another agent in Gloucester is reading this and phones the police.

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    Acting dumb is not a good look. The guidance is simple to understand and not confusing. Go home and wait, like everyone else!

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    I am astounded at the ignorance of the man.As previous commenters have said, the advice is clear and simple. Are his work operations more important than the health and welfare of the public, his clients and his staff? Take a look at the commentary on his Facebook page.

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    How ignorant and disrespectful of everyone else who are observing And following the rules. Perhaps this man feels he is more important than everyone else? I would imagine there will be many people in his community that will feel negative towards his company. Shame on you.

  • Richard Copus

    Catch 22 for them here: It may be possible to open the office to work in and I suspect that this is the reason the Council and the constabulary are intimating they can't do anything. However, anyone travelling to and from that business is going out of their home for non-essential work and they could be prosecuted. If Liddington Bone don't make it clear to their visitors that they are breaking the law, Liddingtons could be prosecuted for aiding and abetting. This is criminal not civil legislation.

  • Richard Copus

    They seem to have taken down their Facebook page with all the adverse comments and they are not answering their telephone. Maybe they'll be closed tomorrow!

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    I am in the same City. By opening up and shouting about it he has made the local buyers think we should all be open. We have even received complaints that we won’t do viewings when he is!! No respect for his colleague or the general public. I’m also not even sure his office is 8m in total!?!
    Sadly I am not surprised that he has opened.


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