Now that Government has confirmed estate agents can return to work, DOMVS believes the most important thing is to ensure we are not increasing the risk of a second round of the virus and a further lock-down, and that we continue to do all we can to safeguard everyone we work with and for. This will ultimately mean changes to our processes and how our teams operate.
We will check the health of the people working for us, our visitors, and clients.
2. Our Offices
We have ample supply of hand-gel, anti-bacterial wipes and sprays, soap and tissues. We will always make sure these are readily available for staff, visitors and customers to use.
We will encourage staff to wash their hands more frequently and make sure supplies do not run out.
We will control the number of visitors within each branch, this will provide extra assurance to both our teams and anyone visiting.
We see estate agency as a ‘people’ business requiring interaction with sellers, buyers, applicants, landlords, tenant’s and contractors to name a but a few.
We will continue to offer digital valuations and viewing options.
Where a face to face meeting is required, we will ask you to disclose to us if anyone is or has displayed symptoms when we speak to you. All staff have been advised to never attend a valuation appointment if they are feeling unwell.
When we arrive for our valuation appointment, we will respectfully avoid handshaking or physical contact. We will keep our two-metre distance and wear protective gloves. We may use face coverings if recommended by the government, and of course will if made compulsory.
We will demonstrate all our marketing via digital means rather than leave paper documentation, all of which we will follow up by email.
As much as we might want to, we will respectfully decline any kind offers of tea and refreshments. We will describe for you our processes to reduce the risk of spreading of coronavirus and reassure you this is paramount to us.
When we return to our vehicle we will dispose of our gloves and use hand-gel to clean our hands and equipment thoroughly. Upon returning to our offices we will wash our hands again before continuing our daily tasks.
Where we receive an instruction to sell, we acknowledge that all other aspects of out legal obligations remain in force.
Preparation of EPC’s can continue to be provided where no COVID-19 exists with assessors working in line with Public Health England guidance.
4. Preparing for the viewing
We are all house proud and will give our homes a good deep clean before opening the doors to any visitor, prospective buyer, in order that it presents itself at its very best. Now is no different, we would ask you to give your house a good clean and tidy up before any viewing.
We will conduct the viewings on your behalf, opening doors, etc, to enable as much of the house to be viewed by the prospective buyers.
We will also minimise the number of viewers at one time and request you vacate the property during the viewing to assist with social distancing.
When preparing for a viewing, pleas follow our checklist below:
- Clean items and/or areas that are likely to be touched with an antibacterial cleaner both before and after the viewing has taken place.
- Open windows to boost ventilation prior to the viewing taking place.
- Open internal doors, loft hatches, and anything else you think may be of interest, ahead of the viewing to minimise any unnecessary contact.
- If possible, provide hand sanitiser by your front door so that the viewers can clean their hands as they enter and leave your home.
- Have a plan of where you can go while the viewing is taking place.
As your health and safety remains our paramount concern we have developed a set of simple guidelines, based on the new government guidance, to reassure you when going to view a property or allowing others into your home for viewings.
5.1. Buying, Renting
We will make full use of our virtual viewing tools and only arrange a viewing at the property where the buyer is genuinely interested. We list property with the benefit of 360-degree inter-active videos, which offer you the opportunity to view the property in a virtual platform, before viewing in person, it is a great place to start.
Please follow this simple government guidance to ensure your viewing runs smoothly and as safely as possible:
- Maintain the two-metre distance from anyone you are not living with – although difficult, it is possible.
- Please wash your hands thoroughly and regularly and avoid touching your face – this remains one of the most effective methods of preventing the spread of coronavirus.
- Please resist touching any surfaces outside of your own home, we know this can be difficult as we touch so many things during the day, often without thinking about it.
We want you to be excited about the prospect of viewing and offer the following suggestions:
- Where possible, please use your own transport or, if it is a walk-able distance, consider this as an option.
- If you do drive, please think about parking.We are happy to assist where we can.
- Use of public transport, especially for those in villages and larger towns maybe a necessity. Please ensure you maintain social distancing where possible.
- We will be asking you to arrive on time to help minimise the number of people gathering near the property, where multiple viewings may occur.
5.3 Before a viewing
In line with government guidance, anyone experiencing symptoms of coronavirus should remain at home to prevent any unnecessary spread of the disease. You can advise us on the day of your appointment if after booking the viewing, symptoms appear.
We will ask on the day of the viewing:
- If anyone in your household had COVID-19?
- Has anyone in your household displayed COVID-19 symptoms or not yet completed the required period of household self-isolation?
- Do you fall within the ‘at risk’ category?
We will ask these same questions to our staff, clients and tenants, to ensure everyone’s health and safety is assured.
5.4 The viewing
We ask you to be mindful of the fact that you are viewing someone’s property and maintain the two-metre distancing for the duration of the viewing, we ask you to be mindful that this is someone’s home and follow the social distancing guidelines.
We suggest it may be a good idea to prepare any question in advance, so we can answer to the best of our knowledge after completing the viewing. This we hope will assist you to achieve the maximum benefit from the viewing.
We recommend you bring with you:
- Anti-bacterial hand sanitiser or a small bar of soap in a resealable bag and some paper hand towels or a small towel. This will ensure you are able to clean your hands both before and after the viewing.
- A face mask not yet mandatory maybe especially useful if you are currently suffering from hay-fever, and therefore prone to sneezing, or travelling by public transport.
- Bring with you disposable gloves to ensure the touching of any surfaces is minimised; we will be asking you to wear gloves during the viewing.
- You may want to prepare a viewing checklist of questions which we can discuss after the viewing.
- Something to write on to record answers to your questions.
- Make sure you bring your mobile phone not only to contact us if you need to, but also so you can make electronic notes.
- Bring a bottle of water if you get thirsty, always advisable in the warmer months.
5.5 If you are the seller
Over these coming weeks, as we book in prospective buyers to view your property. We recommend you follow some simple government guidance:
- We recommend you maintain the two-metre distance from anyone particularly those viewing your property, We strongly recommend you vacate the property where possible especially in smaller dwellings, we will work with you to ensure the best route around the property is adopted.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly avoiding touching your face as this remains one of the most important pieces of guidance to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and we would recommend doing this both before and after each viewing.
- Clean those items that are likely to be regularly touched. We will require viewers to wear gloves and not touch any surfaces within and outside of the property. Where this may occur, we will ensure those surfaces are cleaned by us, and will leave you an electronic note advising you.
5.6 After the viewing
Once the viewing has finished, we will want to spend a few important minutes with the viewers to gauge their interest and answer any questions they may have.
If you are available thereafter, and there is a room or space in which we can discuss the viewing feedback safely, alternatively we can provide you comment on a follow-up via a video call.
We recommend that once we have left the property you should wipe down any door handles, cupboard doors, work surfaces etc, just in case. We will advise you what and if anything has been touched, which we will clean prior to leaving with an antibacterial wipe or spray. Please wash your hands thoroughly thereafter.
6. Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Right to Rent
We are still required to complete your legal requirements to confirm the identity of sellers, buyers, landlords and tenants in some cases.
Using our AML platform, we can action an electronic search if that is the only check required. If we do not take actual documents, the requirement is that this is completed where we can see the individuals and the document at the same time – we will wear protective gloves when handling paper documents.
We will ask you for ‘certified copies’ which you could supply as evidence of identity.
If customers are visiting our branches, we will ask you as to your health prior to your arrival.
Any face to face visits in the office will only be undertaken where two-metre social distancing can be adhered to.
HMRC have not provided any provision where none of the above is possible for health reasons, therefore we suggest we arrange a Facetime of Zoom meeting to see both the individual and the document. In this case we would like to you scan across documents and we will clearly certify the method of testing we have used and the reason why.
As soon as possible we will arrange a face to face inspection and update our records. Our Money laundering Officer and/or Deputy Officer will always sign off any request to proceed on this basis. This will only be used as a last resort and we would have to proceed with caution on any high-risk individual. If we are in any doubt, then we cannot proceed with the business relationship. We would have top refer to the Money Laundering Policy, keeping a clear note of all cases so that we can review them once restrictions are lifted in full.
6.2 Right to Rent
Following the coronavirus outbreak the UK Government have made temporary changes to how Right to Rent checks can be carried out.
The tenant can now scan documents or photographs of their original documents to us. Once received we will then carry out the right to rent check via a video call. We will ask the tenants to hold the documents up to the camera and we can then check the original with the digital copy of the documents we have received. We will record the date the check was carried out and mark it as an adjusted check undertaken due to COVID-19
Once the restrictions have being lifted, we will arrange a face to face meeting with the tenants to carry out a full inspection of their documents. This will be carried out within eight weeks of the restrictions being lifted.
Where we do see tenants on a face to face basis, we will ensure the health checks are completed prior to them being permitted into the office.
Any face to face visits in the office will only be undertaken where two-metre social distancing can be adhered to.
7. Property Management
7.1. Gas & Electrical Safety Requirements
Every effort must be made to follow the existing gas safety regulations and the electrical safety regulations which come into force on 1 July 2020.
It is important to ensure the health and safety of tenants. Annual gas safety checks should continue; we 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.
Whilst we are in these unprecedented times, both regulations allow for situations where a check cannot be carried out due to unforeseen circumstances e.g. a tenant has coronavirus symptoms, is self-isolating or shielding. If cases like this arise, we will demonstrate that we have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the law. We will keep a record of all communications we have had with the tenants and with our Contractors.
7.2 Property Visits for Routine Checks, Repairs and Maintenance
Under new Government Guidance we are now allowed to carry out routine checks and arrange repairs and maintenance.
Prior to any visit we will check if any tenants are symptomatic, self-isolating, or are shielding. The appointment will be cancelled if any of the above prove to be the case.
We will confirm with the tenant that social distancing (e.g. residents staying in another room during the visit) and hygiene measures will need to be followed. We will wear protective equipment (e.g. gloves) and dispose of these appropriately. Whilst we will not be touching any surfaces, we will ask the tenant to wipe down surfaces when we leave.
Contractors may continue to visit properties to undertake maintenance and repairs, but we will first complete our health assessment with the contractor. The contractor will visit in accordance with Public Health England guidance.