** 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. **
Propertymark has created a 29-point checklist in line with the Government’s current property industry guidance, most recently updated on May 13.
Propertymark says: “This checklist is designed to help you pose relevant questions and support compliance while observing the requirements necessary to carry out duties.
“As the situation is regularly changing it is essential to stay abreast of current Government and official advice. It is vital that everyone observes the measures that are in place to limit the spread of the virus.”
1 Before returning to the office, thoroughly clean all hard surfaces with disinfectant and disposable cloths, including doors, door handles, desks etc;
2 Re-organise your office so that workstations are two metres apart and staff sit back to back, rather than face to face;
3 Adjust the office layout to help maintain social distancing while staff move around the building. Introducing a one-way flow if possible;
4 Use floor tape and signage to help people keep two metres apart.
5 Make sure your staff are up to speed on social distancing measures ;
6 Ensure your staff understand their individual responsibilities and are not afraid to alert you to any developments in their personal circumstances. Have a discussion every morning to ensure you are aware of any potential concerns;
7 Train your team to always ask whether any party is showing symptoms or are self-isolating before going ahead with any valuations, viewings or meetings with clients;
8 You should still encourage your staff to work from home wherever possible. Advise them on best practice in working from home and equip them with up to date virus and security protection on all their work devices. Ensure they are aware of the risk of bogus text messages, emails, and websites designed to take advantage of the current situation;
9 For staff who need to go into the office, stagger their start and finish times or consider alternating their days between working from home and working in the office;
10 Consider your current staff levels bearing in mind that agencies need to come out of the COVID-19 period ready to deal with heavy demand, push the business, and increase market share. Are any of your team ready to return from being furloughed? Another consideration is at the start of August, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time;
11 The government has support on sickness pay for businesses with fewer than 250 employees and will be eligible for reimbursement for up to 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee;
12 Keep clear records of all conversations that may affect service throughout the period of disruption;
13 Update your clients to ensure they are aware of the current Government guidance, explaining how your business continues to operate. Don’t forget to ask about their wellbeing, provide support, and understand the likely consequences of their circumstances. Explain any relevant measures you have in place to manage and to protect health and safety;
14 Ensure you are maintaining compliance with Consumer Protection Regulations by providing reasonable information about prior residents in relation to the infection and appropriate cleaning measures to take;
15 Be aware of the vulnerable clients within your portfolio, try to offer extra assistance and communicate with them regularly.
Valuations and Viewings
16 Valuations are now allowed; you can visit client’s properties to take photographs and videos. Ensure that all government guidance on how to do this safely is followed;
17 Provide any initial viewings remotely, either by offering 360 viewings, or digital video viewings if possible;
18 As of 13 May, in-person viewings are permitted as long as social distancing and all other safety precautions are observed;
19 Only arrange viewings with serious buyers;
20 Read through and understand the full Government guidance on viewings.
Inspections, Maintenance, Cleaning
21 Provide disposable gloves for inventory providers and property managers;
22 Check the standard of cleaning between tenancies. Consider whether your current arrangements are sufficiently thorough;
23 If possible, necessary repairs, gas and electrical checks should be carried out in between tenancies. If this is not possible, then any visits should be done by appointment with measures in place to ensure social distancing is achieved.
24 Check your contracts and talk to suppliers including referencing agencies, board and signage contractors, inventory providers, and third-party call handlers, so that everyone is on the same page now that restrictions have started to be eased;
25 Check the terms of any rent protection insurance you may have in case tenants fall into rent arrears;
26 Consider your staff’s individual circumstances in relation to likely caring responsibilities and how best to cover for sickness across the team;
27 Talk to the conveyancers and surveyors that are supporting your chains so that you are aware of small businesses who may struggle to progress transactions;
28 A dedicated helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities to receive support with their tax affairs;
29 The Property Ombudsman has issued guidelines you should handle issues that arise during the restrictions and remind agents that redress scheme membership must continue.