On Wednesday 13th May 2020, the Government released updated guidance for home movers and estate agents in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. As you were probably aware, during the initial lockdown period, estate agents were banned from carrying out face to face viewings at properties, with the message “stay at home”. There have now been some relaxations in the rules, with the Government encouraging the housing market to start moving again. Whilst this is indeed good news for businesses, and for our economy, as an individual I am still very conscious of the need for safety and feel I have a huge responsibility to keep my tenants and prospective tenants safe. We have been urged by the Government to act responsibly and safely, and we will need to act with caution. We need to remember the message of “stay alert” while we adapt our working practices to ensure we meet social distancing requirements at all times.
In this blog, I will summarise the Government advice in relation to moving home at this time, including the safe practice we now need to follow when undertaking viewings and valuations in people’s homes. I have specifically focused on the updates which relate to rental properties, but if you are thinking of selling or buying at this time then you’re welcome to have a look at the full Government guidance here, which has selling specific advice – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak
- The vulnerable and those with symptoms – as has always been the case throughout this pandemic, if you are showing ANY symptoms of Coronavirus then you must self-isolate for a 2 week period. This means that you should not allow anyone in to your home and you should ensure you don’t come in to contact with any other person. If you are showing symptoms then you should make your estate agent aware, and we will not carry out viewings during that period. The same applies to those that are shielding or vulnerable. It’s vitally important that we keep the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions safe, and if you fall in to that category you should be avoiding all contact with others at this time. I certainly will not be carrying out any viewings in properties where my tenants are vulnerable. The Government advises you to avoid moving at this time if at all possible.
- Putting your property on the market – you can now go ahead with putting your property on the market for let if you wish and members of the public are allowed to view properties for sale or for let. Again, if you are exhibiting symptoms or are shielding then you should not allow anyone in to your home, or leave your home to undertake viewings.
- Viewings – whilst you can now view properties again in person, all letting agents should first conduct a virtual viewing of the property as an initial step. I have videos of all of my properties and will send this to potential tenants before booking a face to face viewing. That way we can ensure that only those that are really serious in the property are viewing, and this limits the face to face contact until absolutely necessary. As above, please do not book a viewing to a property if you have any of the Coronavirus symptoms, particularly a dry cough and high temperature. I will also ensure that I will never meet with a tenant or landlord if I have any symptoms and I am regularly taking my temperature at home. We now need to follow strict rules when carrying out viewings to ensure we maintain social distancing, which I have detailed below.
- Removals – removal companies are able to operate fully once again, but many will have changed their practices to keep you and their staff, safe. Tenants are being encouraged to do their own packing and clean belongings thoroughly before packing. You must keep a minimum of a 2 metre distance at all times from your removal operatives and it’s helpful to ensure you have opened all internal doors, so that they do not need to touch surfaces within the property (and the same at the other end). You should keep regularly hand washing and I would encourage you to stay out of the house as much as possible e.g. if your removal people are inside, then consider waiting outside in the garden.
- Letting agents – those agents with high street offices can now open them, but should consider whether staff can work from home as much as possible. Many agents will be thinking about staggering working times and ensuring customers can keep the minimum 2 metre distance from their staff at all times.
How will I conduct safe viewings going forward?
I have thought carefully about my viewing processes to ensure I can keep myself, and everyone else safe. I am now following strict new guidelines when I undertake viewings. Most of these are based on the Government guidance, but where I felt it didn’t go far enough, I have added additional processes:
- Only allow face to face viewings of empty properties wherever possible – unless it’s unavoidable I feel it’s safer carrying out viewings of empty properties and will avoid bringing outside people in to tenant’s homes unless necessary.
- Video viewings where possible – I feel that video viewings are a great solution and I have been using these successfully throughout the lockdown. I will always ensure I have a pre-recorded video tour of all of my properties and will provide this to all initial enquirers as a first step. Only once potential tenants have watched the video and confirmed that they like the property, will we then conduct a face to face final viewing. Hopefully this will also save time for potential tenants, myself, landlords and the tenants living in the properties – our viewings will now be of a higher quality.
- Viewings will be limited to 15 minutes
- Only 2 members of the same household to attend viewings – please ensure that only two of you attend e.g. a couple living together, and please do not bring children or other relatives to the viewing. It becomes very difficult to ensure social distancing with lots of people in the property and it also makes it more likely that people will touch surfaces inside the property and potentially spread the virus. Please respect this rule and ideally come on your own if you can.
- You will be asked not to touch anything inside the property – prior to the viewing, I will open all internal and external doors, and switch on all lights. That way you will not need to touch anything inside and risk spreading the virus on to surfaces.
- I recommend that you wear a face covering during the viewing
- Where possible, I will wait in the front garden while you look round the property. Clearly, this is not safe to do in an occupied property where the tenant has their belongings inside, so for those properties I will wear a face mask and accompany you round the viewing.
- Please wash and sanitise your hands before and after your viewing and I will do the same
- I will not book open house/overlapping viewings and ensure there is a suitable gap between viewings
- Where a property is occupied, and viewings unavoidable, then they will need to leave the property for the viewing and I will be extra vigilant to ensure that viewers do not touch anything inside the property
I hope this has been useful and I do urge you to look at the full Government guidance (linked above) for more information.
I am dedicated to keeping tenants safe and want to do my part to keep social distancing in place. If you are viewing a property with me over the coming months, then I would ask you to please respect my guidelines above. I am taking them very seriously and know that it’s what I need to do to stay safe.
If you have any questions or are thinking of letting your property, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. My number is 01279 940840 and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you in advance,