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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Agent closes branches and demands stricter Coronavirus controls

An estate agent has shut both branches of his business for safety reasons and wants tighter Coronavirus restrictions on the industry. 

ITV News reports that Jeff Cox, owner of Henleys sales and lettings agency in Norfolk, shut both his branches at the weekend.

A notice on their windows reads: “After careful consideration we have made the decision to voluntarily close both branches as of 4pm Saturday 16 January 2021.” The notice goes on to say that the decision has not been taken lightly, but that the company has a duty of care to its staff and customers. 

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Cox told ITV news: “We just felt that we wanted to do our bit by closing our offices.  We're very, very fortunate that we can work from home, we have all the faciltiies in place to do that.. Because of the massive increase of Covid cases in the area, we've had to rethink things very very carefully to just make sure what we're doing is absolutely safe.”

The news service reports the closure comes after the death of another Norfolk agent, Gavin Wilkinson, who was suffering from complications related to Covid 19. 

The Mayor of Wymondham in Norfolk, Kevin Hurn, told ITV: “We understand that Gavin contracted Covid-19, was admitted to hospital and then unfortunately he died of causes that were related to Covid ultimately. He was an extremely well liked person who was very very good at his job.”

The government says it wants to keep the housing market open if at all possible because of the economic benefits of transactions, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government last week updated guidance for agents and those moving home.

Estate agency offices can remain open to the public and agents are advised to talk customers and staff through the company's Covid-19 procedures. 

The latest government guidelines will be familiar to most agents but, for the record, they are:

- Agents should ask whether any party is showing symptoms or has been asked to self-isolate before going ahead with any viewing, or visits to offices:

- Agents should inform visitors to their offices of the need to wear face coverings. Agents should ensure their offices are ‘Covid secure’ and that they take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of the disease;

- Agents should wear face coverings while in close face-to-face contact with visitors and where other protective measures are unlikely to be in place, such as in clients’ homes during a viewing;

- Agents should strongly encourage clients to view properties virtually in the first instance and then only physically inspect properties which they have a strong interest in;

- Where they do not accompany the visit, they should make sure that both buyers and sellers clearly understand how the viewing should be conducted safely;

- Agents should avoid driving clients to appointments. Advise clients to find alternative means of travel including public transport, walking, cycling or using their own vehicle;

- All parties viewing a property should wash their hands with soap and water (or hand sanitiser if not available) immediately after entering the properties, with internal doors opened and surfaces having been wiped down before they enter. Separate towels or paper towels should be used if possible and washed or disposed of safely after use;

- Agents should do what they can to promote flexibility when arranging move dates, for example advising clients to ensure contracts have explicit terms to manage the timing risks presented by coronavirus;

- Agents should work with their clients and other agents to broker a new date to move where sales are due to complete and one of the parties falls ill with coronavirus or has to self-isolate;

- Agents should ensure that any keys are appropriately cleaned before handover;

- Agents should ask clients whether they have returned to the UK from one of the countries not on the exception list. If clients have returned from a country on the quarantine list, agents can continue to progress their home move virtually until the quarantine period is over.

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