The government has confirmed that estate agents can only operate legally under the current pandemic rules if they lock their branch doors to prevent unplanned walk-ins.
This follows a warning given to a Guild of Property Professionals member in Gloucestershire following guidance from their local authority that they would be shut down unless a locked-door policy was followed and, if found not to be complying, the business would face a fine.
Following the warning the Guild contacted the local authority concerned and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to establish whether locked doors are now mandatory rather than ‘guidance’, and civil servants have confirmed that it is.
“After much deliberation, it was determined that…while the agent was following the Covid-secure guidelines, they had not had their office door locked,” says the Guild’s Compliance Officer Paul Offley (pictured).
“This situation serves as a warning that local authorities are being proactive and taking action where they believe an agent is not operating under a locked door and only seeing clients who have made an appointment.
“While agents are allowed to continue to facilitate home moves during the lockdown, it is vital that it is done so in accordance with the health guidelines that the Government has set out or they run the risk of being either financially penalised or closed by their local authority.”
Although there is no legal requirement to lock an agency’s doors, both Propertymark, the Guild and the Guild of Letting have been recommending agents do it since late September, and many agents’ have been – at least officially – observing a locked-door policy since the market re-opened in May.