COVID-19

The Home Moving Process

 

During these unprecedented times, it is important that we all work together to consciously minimise risk and keep the safety of our customers and our colleagues at the forefront of everything we do. This will ultimately mean changes to our processes and how our teams operate.

As Fine & Country operate across different regions within the UK, there will be regional variations and local lockdown restrictions which impact the processes you may find in your local Fine & Country office.

The following sections outline what you might expect from participating Fine & Country offices to achieve a COVID-Secure service.

 

1. People

We will check on the health of the people working for us on a daily basis. As part of our morning meeting, we will carry out a daily check-in within our team to ensure no health conditions have changed.

We will protect each other by wearing a face mask when meeting members of the public.

2. Our Offices

We will adhere to Government guidance on social distancing measures and face coverings. You may also see some protective screens in some of our offices.

Many of our offices are operating an appointment-only system. So please be sure to call ahead, rather than just stopping in.

We have an ample supply of hand sanitiser, anti-bacterial wipes and sprays, soap, tissues. We will always make sure that these are readily available on each desk for staff, visitors and customers to use.

We will have a regular cleaning routine throughout the day and notify all staff to vacate when we start the cleaning process. This will include: desks, chair arms, keyboards, mouse, screens, staplers, pens, photocopier controls, drawer handles, phones, mobile phones, key cabinets, filing cabinets, door handles and card machines where we take card payments.

We will also encourage staff to wash their hands with hot water and soap more frequently than before and make sure supplies are stocked up in washrooms, along with clean towels.

We may keep the front door locked so that we can control the number of visitors within each branch, this will provide extra assurance to both our team and anyone visiting.

Our business owners will lead by example and keep social distancing measures in place all the time. This includes when conducting morning meetings, when preparing refreshments, visits to the lavatories and allocating lunch breaks, all of which will be staggered.

3. Valuations

Estate Agency is a ‘people’ business and requires interaction with sellers, buyers, applicants, landlords, tenants, and contractors to name but a few. How can we provide a safe environment for all concerned?

We will continue to offer our digital valuation and viewing options. This enables us to complete a valuation in accordance with the seller’s instructions, virtually.

All meetings will be by appointment only, and we will confirm the viewing process in writing to all parties prior to the appointment.

We will ask you a few questions regarding potential COVID symptoms or whether someone in your household is self-isolating, to ensure we remain COVID-Secure. Please make sure you disclose to us any symptoms when we ask you, in the same way that we would ensure that anyone we send to your property is free from such symptoms. This is designed to reassure everyone involved. All staff have been advised to never attend a valuation appointment if they are feeling unwell.

All parties will be asked to wear a face mask throughout the appointment. We will respectfully avoid any handshaking or physical contact and remember to keep our two-metre distance. We may also kindly ask that the occupier opens all doors for us, to avoid unnecessary contact.

We will demonstrate all our marketing via digital resources rather than leaving any paper documents at your property. We will follow up on our meeting by email.

This goes against the ‘grain’ for us, but we will keep any face-to-face contact to a minimum and respectfully decline any coffees/refreshments you may be kind enough to offer.

We will explain to you the actions our firm are taking to reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus prior to any meeting – reassuring you is paramount to us.

When we return to our vehicles after each appointment, we will safely dispose of our gloves and use hand gel to sanitise our hands. We will also wipe any equipment we have used during the visit.

When we arrive back at the office, we will be sure to wash our hands with soap and hot water before we do anything else. We will introduce signs around the office to ensure there are plenty of reminders.

Where we receive an instruction to sell a property, we acknowledge that all other aspects of our legal obligations are still in force.

EPCs can continue to be provided if no COVID-19 issues exist and the assessor operates in accordance with Public Health England guidance.

4. Viewings

We will make full use of our virtual viewing tools and only arrange physical viewings where the buyer is genuinely interested in the property.

All viewings will be by appointment only, and we will confirm the viewing process in writing to all parties prior to the appointment.

There will be no open house events for the time being.

We will ask you a few questions regarding potential COVID symptoms or whether anyone in the sellers or buyer households is self-isolating, to ensure we remain COVID-Secure.

When conducting viewings, we will limit viewings to just two households, this will include the seller who would be classed as one ‘household’. Where possible, we may ask the owner(s) and their family to vacate the property for the duration of the appointment, which we will do our best to limit to 15 minutes.

All parties will be asked to wear a face mask throughout the viewings. We will respectfully avoid any handshaking or physical contact and remember to keep our two-metre distance

We may also kindly ask that the seller opens all doors ahead of the viewing to avoid unnecessary contact.

We will demonstrate all our marketing via digital resources rather than leaving any paper documents at your property. We will follow up on our meeting by email.

When we return to our vehicles after each appointment, we will safely dispose of our gloves and sanitise our hands. We will also wipe any equipment we have used during the visit.

If the property is vacant and we are using a key, we will wipe the key when it is taken from the key cabinet, wipe it after the viewing and again before it is placed back in the key cabinet. We will never travel in the same car as anyone else, always meeting viewers at the property.

5. AML and Right to Rent

AML

We are still required to complete your legal requirements to confirm the identity of sellers and buyers, and landlords and tenants in some cases. This should be completed before a business relationship commences.

Using our own AML platform, we are able to action an electronic search if that is the only check required. If we do need to take actual documents, the requirement is that this is completed where we can see the individual and the document at the same time – we will wear protective gloves when handling paper documents.

We will ask if you have ‘certified copies’ which you could supply as evidence of identity.

If customers are visiting our branch, we will ask a few questions regarding potential COVID symptoms or whether anyone that households is self-isolating, to ensure we remain COVID-Secure.

Any face-to-face visits in the office will only be undertaken where two-metre social distancing can be adhered to, or behind a designated desk with a protective screen. All parties will be asked to wear a face mask.

HMRC have not provided any provision where none of the above is possible for health reasons, therefore, we suggest that we arrange a Face Time or Zoom meeting to see both the individual and the document. In this case we would like you to 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 then arrange a face-to-face inspection and update our records. Our Money Laundering 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 to refer to our Money Laundering Policy, keeping a clear note of all cases so that we can review them once restrictions are lifted in full.

Right to Rent

The Home Office have issued guidance that the Right to Rent checks should continue as normal, prior to any tenancy commencement.

The Home Office have permitted Face Time inspection of documents with the individual, followed by submission by email, providing a full inspection with the individual takes place within eight weeks of the restrictions being lifted. All such cases will be recorded for future action.

Where we do see tenants on a face-to-face basis, we will ask a few questions regarding potential COVID symptoms or whether anyone that households is self-isolating, to ensure we remain COVID-Secure.

Any face-to-face visits in the office will only be undertaken where two-metre social distancing can be adhered to, or behind a designated desk with a protective screen. All parties will be asked to wear a face mask.

6. Property Management

Interim inspections – we will be using technology such as Face Time, Zoom or similar to achieve these. We will make clear notes of what we have seen, just as we would with a manual recording of an inspection.

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.

Contractors may continue to visit properties to undertake maintenance and repair, but we will first complete our health assessment with the contractor. The contractor will visit in accordance with Public Health England guidance.

End of tenancy check out
We will be completing a virtual check-out, making sure that we have a copy of the inventory and check-in reports available, and using these to cross reference any points. We will obtain our landlord and tenant’s consent to using this method.

Where we do see tenants on a face-to-face basis, we will ask a few questions regarding potential COVID symptoms or whether anyone that households is self-isolating, to ensure we remain COVID-Secure.

We will wear protective gloves, avoid any physical contact and on returning to our vehicle, we will safely dispose of our gloves and use hand sanitiser. We will also wipe any equipment we have used during the visit.

Where a tenant is required to visit our office, we will ensure that full two-metre social distancing is observed and, if possible, use a designated desk behind a protective screen. All parties will be asked to wear a face mask.

Where any keys are issued, we will always wash our hands once this has happened and where keys are received back, wipe the keys and wash our hands.

We will avoid taking any cash or cheque payments from tenants where possible. If it is not possible, we will ensure that protective gloves are always worn.

For new tenancies, as a precaution we will operate a ‘three-day void period’ between previous tenants vacating and new tenants taking up residence. This is on results from research that has found the Coronavirus can still be detectable on surfaces for up to 72 hours.

In summary

It is our sole intention to safely return to work, servicing our clients with health and safety as our primary concern. We will continue to review this policy to ensure it remains stringent. We thank you for doing business with us and appreciate you working with us under these new ways of operating, during this unusual period.

Links for further information:

 

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