Working In The New World – Conveyancers And Estate Agents
The government has updated the advice on home buying and selling which was issued on March 26 effectively freezing the property market.
The new advice informs the industry about how to comply with ‘safer working’ guidelines and how each sector should operate during next phase of lockdown restrictions.
Let us take a look at what the government are asking of estate agents and conveyancers and how social distancing restrictions will change the way we are asked to work.
Estate agents have been told they are open for business but should plan their office space before opening their days to the public and employees. They have been advised to:
- Agents should ask whether any party is showing symptoms or has been asked to self-isolate before going ahead with any viewing, or visits to offices.
- Agents should operate using an appointment system for visits to their offices and when conducting viewings.
- Agents should not carry out any open house viewings.
- Agents should strongly encourage clients to view properties virtually in the first instance and then only physically inspect properties which they have a strong interest in.
- Agents can accompany physical viewings and seek to maintain a minimum of 2 metres distance from others wherever possible. Where social distancing is not possible and the visit is within an enclosed space, they should consider wearing a face covering in line with government guidance.
- Where they do not accompany the visit, they should make sure that both buyers and sellers clearly understand how the viewing should be conducted safely.
- Agents should not drive clients to appointments.
- All parties viewing a property should wash their hands with soap and water (or hand sanitiser if not available) immediately after entering the properties, with internal doors opened and surfaces having been wiped down before they enter. Separate towels or paper towels should be used if possible and washed or disposed of safely after use.
- Agents should do what they can to promote flexibility when arranging move dates, for example advising clients to ensure contracts have explicit terms to manage the timing risks presented by coronavirus.
- Agents should work with their clients and other agents to broker a new date to move where sales are due to complete and one of the parties falls ill with coronavirus or has to self-isolate.
- Agents should ensure that any keys are appropriately cleaned before handover.
Whilst the market is open for business, conveyancers are still being asked to work remotely wherever possible. The main advice is to ensure that buyers and vendors are educated on the differences in completiting transactions during this period of social distancing.
They have also been encouraged to:
- Conveyancers should aim to conduct as much of their business remotely as possible.
- Where client meetings need to take place, measures should be put in place to ensure appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures.
- Conveyancers should do what they can to promote flexibility making provisions for the risks presented by coronavirus, for example when advising their clients who are ready to move not to exchange contracts on an occupied property unless they have made explicit provision for the risks presented by the virus.
- Conveyancers should prioritise support for anyone who is clinically vulnerable or shielding, or with symptoms of coronavirus or self-isolating to agree a new date to move.