Agents are being advised to operate an appointments-only system if they have offices with only one person on duty during the current Coronavirus period.
The Guild of Property Professionals says this is increasingly the case as some agencies continue to have staff on furlough and want to operate responsible social distancing; in addition, two-person offices will often be reduced to just one as a colleague undertakes valuations or viewings.
“The policy should provide staff with best practice that ensures their safety when they find themselves in a lone working situation” explains the Guild’s compliance officer Paul Offley.
“For example” says Offley “when working in the office alone, agents should always keep the door locked and only allow entry to expected visitors who have made an appointment. There should be a sign on the office door that clearly states ‘by appointment only’.
“Also, make it appear as if you are not in the office alone by hanging a coat over a chair, turning on the PC at an adjoining desk or placing a drink on another desk to make it look as if it is occupied.”
He adds that other things to consider include having key contact who you can keep in touch with through-out the day at agreed intervals to let them know you are OK.
“The key contact should know when you are leaving the office for the day and when you arrive home. There should be an agreed ‘emergency word or phrase’ between you and the key contact, if needed.
“Ensure that your mobile phone is fully charged and has emergency numbers pre-programmed such as office, key contact and other important contacts” advises Offley.
He continues that agents should never travel to an appointment in someone else’s car and never take anyone in their own vehicle to an appointment.
"Arrive early and park your car so you can make a quick getaway in the case of an emergency. If you are at an empty property, try to see a neighbour so that they can see you arrive; go into the property, open another exit door if possible so that you have a route out by two exits and turn on all lights if appropriate – know the property” Offley advises.
“Other aspects to think about include carrying a personal alarm and never being the first into a room. Also, while it is good to build rapport with people, where possible don’t be drawn into giving too much away about yourself personally. When you have finished that appointment, message your key contact and let them know – keep them updated on your whereabouts.”
According to Offley, it is always good to listen to instinct and never attend an appointment on alone if it makes the agent uneasy.
“If you have an uneasy feeling rather reschedule the appointment to a time when you can go with a colleague. Don’t push yourself into a situation that you are not comfortable with, rather make an alternative arrangement” he adds.
The Guild has created a lone-working policy it has distributed to members.