How landlords, estate agents and developers can get ready for viewings, view properties and reopen offices.
Moving home: advice to industry
Key things to consider are:
- Use virtual viewings of properties where possible
- Existing residents should, wherever possible, leave the property before viewings take place
- Follow government advice on social distancing during viewings and use face coverings indoors
- Practice good hand hygiene and ‘touch free’ viewings
- Thoroughly clean properties before and after viewings
All businesses should follow the government’s latest workplace guidance for employers and employees: COVID-19 on how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic and the guidance on how to maintain physical distancing in the workplace.
It is important that all businesses work together to ensure we Test, Trace, Protect to minimise the spread of infection. We expect all sectors to consider how they can operate in a way which minimises the need for face to face contact, and where that can’t be avoided, adopt procedures that ensure social distancing and minimise risk.
Additionally, employers and all those responsible for any premises that is open, will have to comply with the following guidance on minimising the risk of exposure to Coronavirus.
As well as government guidance, we encourage all professionals to speak to their representative bodies and familiarise themselves with the guidance that these bodies have prepared for their specific sectors.
This guidance provides advice for:
- estate agents
- developers and new build sales offices
- letting agents and private landlords
- social landlords
Tradespeople, conveyancers, property owners conducting property viewings themselves, new build home warranty assessors, surveyors, EPC assessors and removals companies may also find the information in these sections useful.
You should familiarise yourselves with the guidance on moving home during the coronavirus pandemic and adapt your processes and procedures accordingly.
Offices and premises
From Monday 12th April, estate agents, new-build sales offices, letting agents and landlord premises can open to the public. The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020, impose obligations on people responsible for premises where work takes place to take all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus. You should read and comply with the 'non-essential retail’ guidance and the associated checklists of priority actions.
If staff are able to work efficiently and safely from home, they should continue to do so. In all elements of your business’s operation, you will need to consider what parts can be undertaken virtually wherever possible.
Health and Safety measures should be put in place in line with the government’s latest workplace guidance for employers and employees on how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic and the guidance on how to maintain social and physical distancing in the workplace.
In respect of the requirement for physical distancing:
The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 impose a legal requirement on workplaces to take all reasonable measures to ensure a 2 metre distance is maintained between persons on their premises and those required to wait to enter the premises (except between members of the same household or a carer and the person assisted by the carer). Guidance has been produced to assist people in understanding what “taking all reasonable measures” means and what to do if it is not possible to maintain a distance of 2 metres in certain circumstances. Failure to comply with this, and other requirements, by those responsible for premises or those responsible for work being carried out on premises can result in enforcement action, including the issuing of improvement and/or closure notices.
Visitors to all offices
Landlords and agents should:
- put procedures in place to minimise person-to-person contact
- ensure visitors to the office are limited in number and/or consider attendance by appointment only to ensure physical distancing guidance can be safely followed
- keep a record of all office visitors, including their contact details, for COVID-19 tracing purposes
- read and implement the latest government advice on wearing face coverings for the public and face coverings guidance for employers and managers of premises.
Additional information for new build show homes
- Builders should keep customer contact details for COVID-19 tracing purposes.
- Customers should be informed in advance of arrival on site of the measures in place that they must abide by.
- Builders should endeavour to send all information about the development to customers digitally.
- Builders should also develop processes for customers who do not have the facility to accept and view documents digitally.
Preparing properties for viewings by the public
Professional photographs and videos, valuations, inspections, and floorplans can be carried out for the purposes of property rentals and sales, but should be done so safely, in line with the workplace guidance for employers and employees and the physical distancing in the workplace guidance.
Facilitating property viewings for the public
- A physical viewing of a property should not go ahead if any of those involved, including the current occupant or occupants, prospective viewer or viewers and landlord or agent accompanying the viewing are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive and are self-isolating. Contact details should be obtained for all viewers in case of necessity to cancel at short notice and for contact tracing purposes.
- Marketing of properties can take place but landlords and agents are responsible for ensuring every effort is made to minimise risk. We would encourage all property viewings to take place virtually in the first instance. Where a physical viewing of a property is required this should be by appointment only and be attended by people from the same household and, where possible, only by the adult members of that household (or one adult member from each household if the home move involves the household and extended household). The aim is to limit the number of visitors, including children, when viewing a property.
- The property should be thoroughly cleaned before and after the viewing.. This should include high touch surfaces, such as door handles, being cleaned with standard household cleaning products. Any towels and cloths used in the process should be safely disposed of or washed as appropriate. Shared access areas, for example shared front door access, should also be cleaned. You can get more information about cleaning in non-healthcare settings on GOV.UK.
- No spontaneous viewings should take place, all viewings should be by appointment only and should be strictly limited to serious prospective buyers.
- Open house viewings are not permissible.
- Viewings should be organised with sufficient time for cleaning in between: back to back viewings are not permissible.
- No one should be part of a property viewing if they have been displaying coronavirus symptoms or are self-isolating.
- Estate and letting agents should follow the workplace guidance for employers and employees.
- Any work in someone’s home should be carried out in line with guidance on working in other people’s homes.
- We would encourage landlords or agents to accompany viewings, whilst complying with the social distancing requirements throughout the viewing.
- Where viewings are unaccompanied, landlords and agents should make sure viewers and occupiers understand in advance how they should conduct themselves.
- Agents or landlords should not drive current or prospective tenants and prospective owners to or from the property viewing. Prior to the viewing, the agent or landlord should make sure that all lights are turned on in the property and that doors are open, to prevent property viewers from inadvertently touching surfaces.
- If a tenant currently resides at the property where the viewing is taking place, the landlord or agent should contact the tenant with sufficient advance notice to explain the process and how the viewing will take place safely. This should be managed sensitively. The tenant is able to refuse consent for the viewing to proceed, should it negatively impact their health and wellbeing. If the tenant is displaying symptoms or is self-isolating visits should not take place until their self-isolation period is complete.
- Landlords and agents should make efforts to agree with the current occupier or occupiers how the property viewing will take place before the appointment is booked. This should include asking whether the property occupier or occupiers are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating and if they are, the property viewing should not go ahead. Landlord and agents should make efforts to agree whether Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be used by the landlord or agent, and whether it will also be distributed to those currently occupying the property if they are present at the viewing, as well as those viewing the property.
- If a viewing is accompanied by a landlord or agent, we recommend that the property occupier vacates the property whilst viewings are taking place, to minimise their contact with those not in their household. If they remain on the grounds of their property, for example in a garden or driveway, they should maintain social distancing whilst other people are shown around the property.
- If it is not appropriate or possible for the property occupier to vacate their current property, even for a short time, they should make efforts to minimise contact with those outside their household by, for example, being in a different room from the individuals viewing the property and the landlord or agent accompanying the viewings. Social distancing should be maintained at all times.
- Property viewers should be advised against touching surfaces throughout the property viewing, unless absolutely necessary. This is particularly relevant in furnished properties, where the risk of contamination of surfaces may be higher.
- Property viewers, landlords and agents should be encouraged to bring hand sanitiser with them and use it frequently during the property viewing.
- The length of time that a property viewing is carried out should be minimised.
- Once the viewing has taken place, the landlord or agent responsible for accompanying the viewing should ensure high touch surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned with standard household cleaning products, with towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate. Shared access areas, for example shared front door access should also be cleaned.
- Workplace guidance for employers and employees should be considered at all times.
Houses of multiple occupation
Property viewings of rooms in houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) and other shared accommodation settings that share a bathroom, kitchen or both
Viewings of empty rooms in otherwise occupied HMOs or shared accommodation settings can take place.
In addition to the areas outlined above in the ‘Facilitating property viewings for the public’ section, you should:
- make attempts to agree with other residents who live in the accommodation a time for the property viewing to take place
- where feasible, it should be agreed for the other residents to avoid being in shared spaces, for example kitchens, bathrooms, living area, whilst the property viewing is taking place
Property home moves into HMOs and other shared accommodation settings that share a bathroom, kitchen or both
Home moves into HMOs and shared accommodation settings are allowed, but this government advice and related links within this document should be followed:
- tenants should not move into an HMO or other shared accommodation settings if any of the current tenants are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or self-isolating. Wherever possible, you should support tenants to verify this
- tenants should not move into an HMO or other shared accommodation settings if they themselves are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, or self-isolating
- tenants who are shielding should consider whether it is appropriate to move into an HMO or other shared accommodation based on their medical needs and seek medical advice if required
Where a home move into an HMO or shared accommodation setting is necessary and other people already reside at the property, additional precautions are necessary:
- good hand washing and respiratory hygiene practices should be followed, and you should wash your hands regularly
- all hard surfaces should be cleaned with normal disinfectant, especially door handles, window handles, WC handles, taps, basins and work surfaces
- you should refer to the GOV.UK advice on cleaning and disinfection
Entering people’s homes
If you need to enter another person’s home for the purposes of work related to a home move, for example, a tradesperson carrying out an inspection, the visits should be carried out in line with workplace guidance for employers and employees and the physical distancing in the workplace guidance.