The property industry often conjures images of elegant homes, bustling property viewings, and successful deals. However, as recent news stories remind us, the safety of estate and letting agents must be a paramount concern. Letting and estate agents often work alone, meeting strangers in unfamiliar and empty properties, and while it’s impossible to eliminate all risks, understanding and preparing for potential dangers can significantly enhance safety.

This article looks at the risks and how to stay safe whilewhile still delivering exceptional service to clients.

Understanding the Risks

Working alone or in isolated environments does not always mean a higher risk of violence, but it does make workers more vulnerable due to the lack of nearby support from a colleague. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines violence as ‘any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work’ – this includes verbal threats.

Abuse and violence can lead to a high level of stress which may have serious and long-term effects on workers’ physical and mental health. This in turn can impact staff turnover, productivity, and the company’s reputation.

The tragedy of Suzy Lamplugh’s disappearance in 1986 remains etched in the memories of many in the industry. Suzy, a 25-year-old estate agent, vanished after going to meet a client named “Mr. Kipper.” Despite exhaustive searches and investigations, Suzy was never found and was declared dead, presumed murdered, in 1994.

This case serves as a stark reminder of the risks involved and underscores the need for stringent safety protocols. It also led to increased awareness and the establishment of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, dedicated to personal safety.

Legal Obligations

Employers are legally required to ensure the safety of their staff under the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act and related regulations. This includes managing health and safety risks, providing training, maintaining communication, and preventing work-related violence.

Safety Strategies

  • Develop a zero-tolerance policy for aggressive behaviour. Whether it be over the phone, online or in person, staff should treat any threatening behaviour seriously.
  • Involve staff in creating practical safety protocols to ensure they address real-life situations.
  • Provide comprehensive training during staff induction, and regular refreshers so that staff can feel confident in their response actions.
  • Use risk assessment forms and ensure staff carry personal safety devices and understand how to use them.
  • Establish a buddy system or use code words that can be used to alert someone in the office to a situation that requires help.
  • Ensure that all staff understand how to respond if they are alerted to an emergency situation or have not heard back from a colleague

Office Safety:

  • Prepare for potentially dissatisfied customers and know how to handle aggressive behaviour.
  • If faced with aggressive or confrontational behaviour do not engage; politely end the conversation and remove yourself where possible.
  • Keep a fully charged phone and personal safety device to hand
  • Regularly check in with colleagues if working alone in the office.
mother with baby complaining to agent

Appointment Procedures:

  • Be alert and treat every appointment as a potential risk. Record as much details as possible in your CRM system such as time and address and name and contact details of the client. Car registrations can also help – if anyone refuses then consider cancelling. Most people will understand if you say it is a standard company safety precaution.
  • Verify information as much as possible. Confirming appointments and checking social media.
  • Schedule appointments during daylight hours whenever possible.

Always trust your instincts – your safety comes first!

Out & About:

  • Inform colleagues of your schedule and check in regularly – ideally after every appointment, even if you’re out for a long period of time)
  • Do your homework – learn as much about the property as possible before attending the viewing by looking at Google Maps Street View and studying the floorplan and any photos.
  • Try to visit the property in advance or arrive early to familiarise yourself with the layout and potential risk areas such as locked doors or anything laying around that could be used as a weapon
  • Never offer a lift or accept a lift to the property from the applicant
  • Lead from behind during property tours to maintain control and stay near exits.
  • At all times have your keys, mobile phone, and any personal safety device to hand. Ensure your phone is always fully charged and the location services are switched on.
  • Always trust your instincts and don’t hesitate to cancel appointments or even walk out of one if you feel unsafe or suspicious – your safety comes first.

Managing Tenants:

  • Ensure you are fully informed of the situation before visiting tenants.
  • Bring a colleague if feasible and maintain a professional demeanour.
  • Try to always be between the tenant and the exit so that you can leave quickly and easily should you need to.
  • Be prepared and know how to handle aggression.
  • Record and report any incidents of threat or harassment.

Handling Animals:

barking dog

It’s not just people that agents need to be wary of! Whether it is an applicant who turns up with their dog, or you are visiting a property with pets, the risk to your safety can come from animals too.

Unless it is an Assistance Dog, when attending a viewing, advise the applicant that their dog must stay outside.

When visiting a tenant with a dog ask them to secure their dog before the appointment to avoid aggressive encounters, even if they state their dog is not aggressive.

If you attend a property or an appointment where there is an animal that becomes aggressive or ‘overly enthusiastic’ and the owner can’t control them, then you should walk away and treat it like any other potentially harmful situation.

Further Advice:

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust offers resources to help choose the right personal safety devices. Click here to learn more

Propertymark has a ‘Lone Worker Safety’ course to learn about the principles of good practice when it comes to working alone, and mobile phone safety, contingency planning and exit strategies. Click here for details

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidance for employers of ‘lone workers’ here


This article is intended as a guide only and does not constitute legal advice. If in doubt seek professional legal advice.

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