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."