Surveyors Demand Suspension Of Transactions
The surveying community is the latest sector urging the government to suspend housing transactions until government restrictions are lifted.
Surveyors are calling on the government to provide clarity on their situation after recent grants and advice have left them vulnerable both financially and the outbreak.
In a letter to the government, the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) has accused the government of releasing a ‘double whammy’ of measures and advice which will cause them and their business harm.
They claim that ‘the only sensible option is for Government to pause the progress of property transactions until Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, and for tailored support packages to be put in place for Independent surveyors and other professionals in a similar plight.’
Firstly, the self-employment financial aid announced recently to help those earning less than £50,000 is said to exclude many within the sector who are about to see their earnings completely dry up over the next financial quarter. The RPSA argue that the imminent restriction on housing transactions will mean the government need to consider those within the sector and offer packages to help ease the burden caused by governmental measures imposed to stem the flow of the coronavirus.
Secondly, the letter sent to both the Chancellor, Risi Sunak, and Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has suggested that ambiguous and contradictory advice will put surveyors in danger of contracting the virus.
The government’s ‘advice on home moving during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak’ states that ‘Surveyors should not expect to carry out non-urgent surveys in homes where people are in residence, and no inspections should take place if any person in the property is showing symptoms, self-isolating or being shielded.’
However, guidance also says that it ‘may be possible to carry out some of your work online and also carry out urgent surveys on empty properties, or those where the occupants are out of the property or following guidance to stay at home and away from others.’
The RPSA believes this guidance places surveyors at risk. It questions how a surveyor can confidently ascertain how long a property has been empty and how they can guarantee someone with the virus has not been in the property prior to their survey work taking place.
Lenders have also echoed this sentiment, claiming that it is difficult to offer home finance and mortgages when physical surveys are reducing or cannot take place.
RPSA Chairman, Alan Milstein, commented:
“Like tens of thousands of one-man band businesses, many surveyors operate limited companies and receive a combination of salary and dividends, an arrangement excluded from the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme announced by Downing Street yesterday.
“And, as most don’t pay business rates, they are denied grants or funding announced under the earlier support for businesses package. As small businesses the option to furlough themselves simply doesn’t exist. There are always administrative and maintenance tasks to be done.
“RPSA members are left completely outside any of the support schemes announced so far.
“Worse still, despite clear messages only to go out when absolutely necessary, Government Advice for home moving specifically highlights that urgent surveys can be carried out by surveyors, on empty properties or where the occupants are out and free of coronavirus. However, the Advice also suggests that going into occupied homes to carry out surveys can still be considered safe. So, which advice do surveyors follow? And how would one of our members reliably determine if a house has been recently occupied by an infected person?
“When Boris Johnson told us that Government would put their arms around all workers, we assumed that would include small surveyor businesses. But it seems not. Many of us have been left out of financial support, and are almost being encouraged to put ourselves in harm’s way. Our members deserve better than this.”
Should the government listen to the call from lenders and surveyors to suspend all property market activity until restrictions are lifted?