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Update on Covid-19 Restrictions: A message from the Chairman

Written by Ian Vicary, ISVA Chairman, and edited / supported by Richard Hulls (former Chair and ISVA council member)

Further to my recent email on this subject, I am aware that, generally, corporate-style firms have stopped inspections, perhaps only drive-bys! In private practice it seems a number of surveyors and valuers are interpreting the guidance differently.

The message from the UK Government seems clear: STAY AT HOME UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY – this remains TRUE.  Is the work absolutely necessary?  – usually, NO.  And/or can it be deferred ? – usually, YES.

However, although safety remains paramount, there is still a balance to be struck between safety and earning a living during the lockdown period under the current guidelines.  If you cannot remain at home to work then you are still encouraged to go to work providing it is carried out in a safe manner in accordance with Public Health England guidelines.

I am NOT in a position to provide advice but merely wish to update and share information with members on the issues and actions taken by some our membership. It seems currently that each member/firm must decide how to interpret the guidance and, therefore, carry out their own risk analysis of when to carry out work outside of home – probably on a case by case basis. In doing so, each member must consider the potential methods of transmission of the virus when carrying out risk management.

We are asking for clarity on this subject by sending a letter to the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government. I will let you know when and if we receive a response.

Some surveyors/valuers are continuing to undertake property inspections e.g. external inspections, and in exceptional cases internal inspections of property providing it has been vacant for some considerable time (debatable and unreliable but at least 72 hours minimum), while observing Public Health England guidelines on hygiene and social distancing, in line with the published advice.

In summary, and in order of priority:

  1. work from home where possible,
  2. defer inspections where possible,
  3. work outside home on site at properties on a case by case basis in a safe manner in accordance with Public Health England guidelines using risk analysis, i.e. such as surveying and inspecting properties externally or internally if vacant, where it is necessary and safe to do so in line with Public Health England guidance.

How much work is actually available will surely be very limited. In the estate agency world, it seems clear – no physical viewings.  This, obviously, has brought the industry pretty much to a halt except for some previously agreed ongoing sales which agents are trying to keep going.  In reality, most buyers in such situations have lost confidence in the market and are placing matters on hold. This is sensible because, firstly, it lowers the risk of transmission and secondly, like many of us, they have no idea what to pay in terms of current market value in these unprecedented times.

There may be some exceptions for letting agents dealing with emergencies or vulnerable tenants, etc., but on the whole, everyone should STAY AT HOME AND WORK – this remains TRUE.

The ISVA will continue to do what we can to support members throughout this crisis and will update you again, hopefully with a response from Government.  We encourage everyone to stay abreast of updates to the restrictions being put in place. Please refer to government websites for business support being made available by the Government.

Despite the above revised opinion, we still continue to urge everyone to use their own judgment on each case and prioritise their safety and that of those around them.

Ian Vicary

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