You will have heard the news that with immediate effect anyone in England can now move home, estate agents’ offices can reopen, viewings can take place, show homes can open and removal companies and other essential parts of the sales and letting process can start operating again with immediate effect.

However this comes with the condition that all those involved must follow the guidance published by the Housing Secretary as far as practically possible, which also clearly states that this does not represent a return to normality.

You can read the full guidance here.

 

The following key points and suggestions have been gathered from government guides but are not exhaustive. A degree of common sense needs to be applied in all cases to protect you, your workers and your clients:

PREPARATION

  • Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment & share the results with all fellow workers

This means you need to think about the risks you and your workers face and do everything reasonably practicable to minimise them, recognising you cannot completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19.

If you have fewer than five workers you don’t have to write anything down as part of your risk assessment but it may be useful to do so anyway. Your risk assessment will help you decide whether you have done everything you need to

  • Check that everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
  • Make sure everyone knows how to spot symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Allow people to work from home where this is possible
  • Prepare your workplace
  • desks should be assigned to an individual and not shared. If they need to be shared they should be shared by the smallest possible number of people and sanitised between different people;
  • where possible to remain 2 metres apart use floor markings to mark the distance;
  • where it is not possible to remain 2 metres apart, staff should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face;
  • if feasible, place plexiglass barriers at points of regular interaction as an additional element of protection for workers and customers;
  • make sure there are places to wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water;
  • Where possible, providing paper towels as an alternative to hand dryers in handwashing facilities;
  • provide hand sanitiser at office entry and exit points;
  • providing individual hand sanitiser and tissues for staff within the office and when out and about;
  • use additional signage to ask customers not to enter the premises if they have symptoms;
  • consider shift working or the staggering of hours to reduce numbers in the office or split staff into teams with alternate days working from home;
  • possibly staggering on-premises hours to reduce public transport use during peak periods;
  • splitting staff into teams with alternate days working from home;
  • add signs and posters for staff and visitors to maintain personal hygiene standards and social distancing.

DAY TO DAY PRACTICES

  • Draw up clear working guidelines

Create a clear guide for your workers to comply with government guidelines to keep you and your staff safe, and to protect prospective tenants and buyers as well as landlords, vendors and current tenants/occupiers. This will also act to inspire confidence at all levels.

  • In the office
  • make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace is potentially infected and needs to take the appropriate action
  • frequently clean work areas and equipment between uses, using your usual cleaning products
  • frequently clean objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, such as door handles and keyboards, and making sure there are adequate disposal arrangements
  • operate an appointment system for visits to your offices and when conducting viewings
  • ask whether any party is showing symptoms or has been asked to self-isolate before going ahead with any viewing, or visits to offices
  • limit the number of people visiting your office at any one time & if possible maintain a record of all visitors
    • Viewings
  • strongly encourage clients to view properties virtually in the first instance and then only physically inspect properties which they have a strong interest in;
  • do not carry out any open house viewings;
  • do not drive clients to appointments – arrange to meet at the property;
  • vehicles should not be shared ;
  • physical viewings should be limited to only members of the same household that absolutely have to be there;
  • Instruct clients not to touch anything within the property;
  • it is recommended that any current occupiers vacate the property whilst viewings are taking place and leave all internal doors open;
  • during accompanied viewings try to maintain a minimum of 2 metres distance from others wherever possible. Where social distancing is not possible consider wearing a face covering in line with government guidance;
  • if possible all parties should wear a face covering during the viewing;
  • all parties viewing a property should sanitise their hands immediately before entering the property, with internal doors opened and surfaces having been wiped down before they enter. Separate paper towels should be used and disposed of safely after use;
  • after the viewing has taken place, the current occupiers should ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned with standard household cleaning products and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate;
  • ensure that any keys are appropriately cleaned before and after each viewing and before handover.
  • Apply Common Sense

Guides cannot allow for all possible circumstances so ensure that you continue to communicate with your staff, contractors and clients and apply common sense where necessary.

 

Additional resources:

Government guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people’s homes during COVID-19

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes   

Government guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/offices-and-contact-centres

HSE Poster to display in your workplace to show you have followed the guidance:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5eb97d30d3bf7f5d364bfbb6/staying-covid-19-secure.pdf