If I am honest, this is not how I anticipated the apocalypse to look. The streets deserted apart from roving estate agents, dead eyes above the mask, looking for someone, anyone, to force into a viewing in an enclosed space.
But that is what the Government has given us with the forthcoming Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020. Under the revised list of reasonable excuses to leave where you are living are:
(l) to undertake any of the following activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property—
(i) visiting estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes;
(ii) viewing residential properties to look for a property to buy or rent;
(iii) preparing a residential property to move in;
(iv) moving home;
(v) visiting a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property;”;
(l)(v) would seem to cover a lot of ground, including, as someone suggested to me, a visit by bailiffs for eviction. Or maybe an attendance for repairs during a tenancy. But there we are. Fancy a move? Off you go to look at properties, accompanied at a safe distance by your estate agent in a decorating mask.
Given that the Secretary of State for Housing has apparently said that whether the ban on evictions would be extended was reliant on ‘medical evidence’, one might start to see a picture coming together. Let loose the letting agents! Let them roam the silenced streets!
Still, (l)(ii) needs prompt clarification. Does this extend to viewings of tenanted properties? If so, what, exactly is the safe procedure and requirements? How many strangers turning up should tenants put up with? If any?
What if the tenant (or anyone in the household) is self isolating, or in a vulnerable category? Because, let us be honest, as a class letting agents are not known for the subtlety, accuracy and thoughtfulness with which they interpret rules.
Update – 13/05/2020. MHCLG have issued guidance. Which includes this:
- If your property is being viewed, you should open all the internal doors prior to the viewing, and allow access to handwashing facilities and ideally separate towels/paper towels.
- As most people choose to do, we encourage that you vacate your property whilst viewings are taking place in order to minimise your contact with those not in your household.
- When viewing a property, all parties should wash their hands and avoid touching surfaces where possible. Agents will ask you to restrict the number of people who accompany you on a viewing so that social distancing can be practised, and only those in your immediate household should be there.
- We expect agents to accompany clients on a viewing but follow social distancing rules wherever possible. Where viewings are unaccompanied, agents should make sure viewers and homeowners understand how they should conduct themselves.
- Once the viewing has taken place, the homeowner should ensure surfaces, such as door handles, are cleaned with standard household cleaning products and towels disposed of safely or washed as appropriate.
Follow social distancing rules ‘wherever possible’? People will be using the occupants’ sinks and towels? Are people to bring their own soap?!