Fury over agent breaching government rules on opening to public

There’s been a furious response to the agent who appears to have breached government rules by opening his branch to the public – believed to be the first agent to do so.

Yesterday we revealed that Liddington Bone Property, a single-office sales and lettings agency in Gloucester, opened its doors and adopted a ‘one in, one out’ policy. Extensive social distancing measures were implemented.

However, a poll of over 600 readers of Estate Agent Today showed a strong 66 per cent against the move, and none of the 21 strongly-worded comments left on EAT, all by known agents, backed the company.

Last evening the company’s telephone was not being answered and its Facebook page appeared to have been taken down; it is not known if it will repeat the opening today.

Yesterday evening NAEA Propertymark’s chief executive Mark Hayward told EAT: “Estate agents are still termed a non-essential business and should therefore be obeying the government’s guidance. Agents should continue working from home and utilise virtual viewings. Offers are still being accepted virtually, and agents are agreeing to sales, subject to contract and a physical viewing once lockdown measures are eased.”

And Paul Offley, compliance officer for The Guild of Property Professionals, told EAT: “While The Guild has been lobbying the government to consider estate and lettings agents to be among the first sectors to open, and we have been issued government-back guidelines to our nembers on safely returning to work, our advice to our network remains work from home unless you are unable to do so.

“If the government and health experts’ advice and guidelines are not adhered to, we run the risk of a prolonged lockdown, a possible second wave of infections and far greater damage to the economy and our sector.

“The advice is, if you can work remotely, do so … We will continue to follow government guidance until such time as any restrictions are lifted.”

Arguably the most relaxed response came from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Late last evening it gave Estate Agent Today a statement saying: “The single most important action we can all take, in fighting coronavirus, is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives. When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we will reduce the spread of the infection.

“To reduce social contact, the Government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close to members of the public. The government has agreed the list of closures in line with advice from medical professionals. In England, Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers will monitor compliance with these regulations.”