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COVID-19

Health & Safety Measures
Recommended for Guild Members

Now that the Government has confirmed estate agents can return to work, ensuring that we are not increasing the risk of a second round of the virus and a further lockdown is a priority. Everyone must continue to do

all they can to safeguard our communities, including those our Members work with and for. This will ultimately mean changes to the processes for many Guild Member agents across the country. 

The following sections outline how participating Guild Members can achieve this; we are supporting independent agents to work safely and effectively during these unusual times.

To find out how your local Guild Member is delivering a safe service, you can contact them directly. Find your nearest Guild Member here.

 

1. People

As with many businesses looking to return to work, the process starts with people! Ensuring the people working with them are fit and healthy is the first step in safeguarding both the agency and the public.

Members should check on the health of the people working for them. They should have a one-to-one with each member of their team to establish they are ‘healthy’ to return to work and complete a ‘health assessment’ form with each of them.

As part of their morning meetings, we recommend they carry out a daily check-in within the team to ensure no health conditions have changed.

 

 

2. Guild Member Offices

When agents return, Guild Members should accommodate the two-metre social distancing rule; this may mean fewer ‘desks’ or work stations to allow this to happen. They should then mark out the floor space to allow any customers or visitors to keep to the two-metre rule and limit the number of visitors to one party of two people at any one time. They should stay face-to-face contact to a minimum where possible, and we have recommended their staff work side-by-side with a minimum two-metre distance between them, rather than facing each other.

The Guild recommends Members consider installing screens on some desks to allow for customer interaction, while maintaining protection for all parties. They should designate desks to be used for talking to customers and ensure they are cleaned after each visit.

Given offices will have been empty for several weeks they will require a good deep clean. Members are advised to arrange this before any staff return and cover all areas including kitchens, staff rooms, toilets, fridges, microwaves etc.

We recommend Members purchase an ample supply of hand-gel, anti-bacterial wipes and sprays, soap and tissues and make sure these are readily available on each desk for staff, visitors and customers to use.

The Guild has supplied a cleaning checklist to help them follow a regular cleaning routine throughout the day. This should include: desks, chair arms, keyboards, mouse, screens, staplers, pens, photocopier controls, drawer handles, phones, mobile phones, key cabinets, filing cabinets, door handles and card machines where card payments are taken.

Staff should wash their hands with hot water and soap more frequently than before, and they should ensure supplies are stocked up in washrooms, along with disposable paper towels.

We have also recommended agents keep the front door locked so they can control the number of visitors within each branch, this will provide extra assurance to both our team and anyone visiting. In many cases, our Members are advising they will look to establish an appointment-only policy for visits to the office, so we recommend calling your agent before popping in. It is also possible some agencies will be operating on slightly reduced or varied hours as we ease out of lockdown.

Business owners should lead by example and keep social distancing measures in place all the time. This includes when conducting morning meetings, when preparing refreshments, visits to the lavatories and allocating lunch breaks, all of which should be staggered.

3. Valuations

Estate Agency is a people business and requires interaction with sellers, buyers, applicants, landlords, tenants, and contractors, to name but a few. How can Guild Members provide a safe environment for all concerned?

Virtual options

The updated Government guidance stresses the continued need for digital valuation and viewing options – which Guild Members can offer. Technology is allowing our Members to complete a valuation in accordance with the seller’s instructions, virtually. They have access to detailed property and market data, as well as software to help you submit details about your property along with photos and videos. Find out more about Guild Member's virtual services here, or start a virtual valuation today.

Physical visits

Where a face-to-face meeting is required, Members are encouraged to use a health assessment form to assess any risk associated with each individual visit; we have provided our network with a series of documents which allow them to do this simply and effectively. Agents should also carry out an assessment of the team member visiting you. Remember, this is a two-way process so be honest with your agent and disclose any symptoms when you're asked, in the same way your agent would ensure anyone they send to your property is free from such symptoms. This is designed to reassure and safeguard everyone involved. All agents have been advised never to attend a physical valuation appointment if they are feeling unwell.

Where they do conduct a valuation, please don't be offended if agents respectfully avoid any handshaking or physical contact and decline any coffees/refreshments you may be kind enough to offer. They should also keep a two-metre distance from you and may wear protective gloves. They may also use face masks.

When it comes to valuing your property, your agent will want to present how they intend to market your property to buyers. We recommend they show any marketing via digital resources, avoiding leaving any paper documents at your property. Your agent should follow up with an email, but ask if you are unsure of the next steps.

Agents offer a people-focused service, so it will go against the ‘grain’ for them to keep any face-to-face contact to a minimum, but they should keep this time limited.

Reassuring you is paramount to Guild Members, so you can expect them to explain the actions their firm is taking to reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus. If you are unsure or would like to know more, ask!

After the meeting

Upon leaving your property, Members are advised to safely dispose of their gloves and use hand gel to sanitise their hands and wipe any equipment used during the visit with a disinfectant.

Back at the office, agents should wash their hands with soap and hot water before doing anything else – many are putting signs up around the office to ensure there are plenty of reminders for staff.

At the end of each day and after their final appointment, they should also give their steering wheel, gear lever, handbrake, and all controls a wipe down with anti-bacterial wipes.

EPCs can continue to be provided if no COVID-19 issues exist and the assessor operates in accordance with Public Health England guidance.

 

4. Viewings

Virtual tools

Members are encouraged to continue making the most of the technology available by offering virtual viewings. Guild Members have access to technology which allows them to quickly and simply brand any video, and you can film it!


By using virtual viewings as a first step, Members can ensure physical viewings are with buyers who are genuinely keen on your property.

In recent research commissioned by The Guild, homemovers pointed out that with virtual viewings, they can see more properties and widen their search area – so a remote viewing could be a great way to gain initial interest.

Physical viewings

Members have been provided with a health check to carry out on all viewers intending to visit the property, asking everyone to declare any symptoms.

You can expect the number of people viewing a property to be limited to no more than two at any one time and, where possible, Members are likely to ask owners and their families to vacate the property for the duration of the appointment to respect social distancing.

If the property is occupied, Members can also use our checklist to check on the health of the seller and all those in residence before arranging the appointment.

Agents are advised not to travel with prospective buyers; everyone should meet at the property, should a physical viewing need to take place.

Members are likely to respectfully avoid any handshaking or physical contact, while keeping a two-metre distance. They may be wearing protective gloves and should avoid any paper documents.

They may use face masks. The agent wearing protective gloves should be the only person permitted to open doors to show potential buyers and tenants the rooms and storage etc.

After the viewing

When your agent returns to their vehicle, they should safely dispose of their gloves and use hand gel to sanitise. They should also wipe any equipment used during the visit.

If the property is vacant and they are using a key to gain access, Members are advised to wipe the key when it is taken from the key cabinet, wipe it after the viewing and again before it is placed back in the key cabinet.

5. AML AND RIGHT TO RENT

AML

Agents are still required to complete legal requirements to confirm the identity of sellers and buyers, and landlords and tenants in some cases. This should be completed before a business relationship commences.

Using The Guild's AML platform, your agent may be able to action an electronic search, provided that is the only check required. If they do need to take physical documents, they are required to complete this where they can see both the individual and the document at the same time – your agent can wear protective gloves when handling paper documents.

Your agent may ask if you have ‘certified copies’ which you could supply digitally as evidence of identity.

If customers are visiting any branches, Members should complete the health assessment before they are permitted into the office. If they have previously done so, they may check there has been no change in your health.

Any face-to-face visits in the office should only be undertaken where two-metre social distancing can be adhered to, or behind a designated desk with a protective screen.

HMRC have not confirmed a provision where none of the above is possible for health reasons. Therefore, you may be asked to join a FaceTime or Zoom meeting so they can see both the individual and the document. In this case, they may ask you to scan across documents and they will clearly certify the method of testing used, and the reason why.

As soon as possible, they should then arrange a face-to-face inspection and update of their records. Their Money Laundering Officer should always sign off any request to proceed on this basis. This is likely to only be used as a last resort, and your agent would proceed with caution on any high-risk individual. If they are in any doubt, they will not proceed with the business relationship and would have to refer to their Money Laundering Policy. They will keep a clear note of all cases, so they can review them once restrictions are lifted in full.

Right to Rent

The Home Office has issued guidance that the Right to Rent checks should continue as usual, prior to any tenancy commencement.

The Home Office has permitted FaceTime inspection of documents with the individual, followed by email submission, providing a full inspection with the individual takes place within eight weeks of the restrictions being lifted. All such cases will be recorded for future action.

Where they do see tenants on a face-to-face basis, they will ensure the health assessment is completed prior to them being permitted into the office.

Any face-to-face visits in the office should only be undertaken where two-metre social distancing can be adhered to, or behind a designated desk with a protective screen.

6. Property Management

Interim inspections

Agents can use technology such as FaceTime, Zoom or similar to achieve these. They should make clear notes of what they have seen, just as they would with a manual recording of an inspection.

It is important to ensure the health and safety of tenants. Annual gas safety checks should continue; they can arrange these at any time from month 10 of the existing certificate, without impacting the expiry date. Gas Safe engineers are permitted to visit in accordance with Public Health England guidance.

Contractors may continue to visit properties to undertake maintenance and repair, but they should first complete a health assessment. The contractor will visit in accordance with Public Health England guidance.

End of tenancy check out

Guild Members are encouraged to complete a virtual check-out, making sure that they have a copy of inventory and check-in reports available, and using these to cross-reference any points. They should obtain both landlord and tenant’s consent to using this method.

Where any face-to-face visit must take place in the property, they should ensure a health assessment is completed prior to the visit taking place. Agents are likely to be wearing protective gloves and avoid any physical contact. On returning to their cars, we recommend they safely dispose of their gloves and use hand-gel to sanitise. They should also wipe any equipment used during the visit.

Where a tenant is required to visit the office, two-metre social distancing should be observed and if possible, use a designated desk behind a protective screen.

Where any keys are issued, your agent should wash their hands once this has happened and where keys are received back, wipe the keys and wash their hands.

They are likely to avoid taking any cash or cheque payments from tenants where possible. So speak to them about payment methods. If it is not possible to pay in a contactless way, your agent can wear protective gloves to carry out the transaction.

For new tenancies, as a precaution you may find some Members will operate a ‘three-day void period’ between previous tenants vacating and new tenants taking up residence. This is based on results from research that has found the Coronavirus can still be detectable on surfaces for up to 72 hours.

In summary

It is our sole intention to help Guild Members return to work safely, serving their clients with health and safety as their primary concern. Guild Members are likely to continue reviewing this policy to ensure it remains relevant. Your local Guild Member will appreciate you working with them in these new ways during this unusual period.

Links for further information:

  • nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19
  • gov.uk/government/organisations/public-health-england
  • gov.uk/coronavirus
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