First published by Financial Reporter
The current Government guidance during Lockdown 3 is currently as follows: ‘Stay Home | Protect the NHS | Save Lives’.
However, for those of us working in the housing market particularly surveyors – and given the market is still able to function as long as we follow the Government guidelines – the ‘Stay Home’ message doesn’t really fit.
Given surveyors are required to be away from home in order to carry out their work, the guidance for us is probably best summed up as ‘Stay safe in other people’s homes’ and as a business we’ve certainly put a large number of measures in place to ensure our surveyors do exactly that.
In fact, as soon as Lockdown 3 was announced, we issued further guidance for those surveyors conducting home surveys allowing them to only do these if all those within the property had vacated the premises while they were inside. Given that surveys take longer than valuations, we felt the risk was much greater if the property continued to be occupied.
And yet… over the past few weeks we have had a growing number of surveyors voicing to us their concerns about the risk they’re taking, specifically when the property occupiers don’t take our protocols and guidelines seriously. We’ve told our surveyors that they have our full support if, after they’ve conducted their Risk Assessment, they don’t feel safe enough to carry out their work.
Part of the problem here seems to be the different ways different professions and trades are treating this lockdown and the measures they do, or rather don’t, take when they’re inside a property. If an occupier has seen a tradesman or woman not taking the same precautions as our surveyors would, then they might be apathetic towards our guidance, and it seems this is more common now than in previous months.
What we have also noticed is that tenant occupiers rather than owners are less likely to comply. The reason for this is that our booking team take the owner through the full procedure, what to do and expect, but when it comes to rental properties, they tend to do this with the agent rather than the individual(s) living there, and sometimes those messages do not get communicated properly.
On the day when our surveyors ask them to follow our guidance, they are met with confused faces and there again tends to be a greater chance of them not complying if they’re not aware in advance.
The crux of the matter is that, while it’s certainly not widespread, we may start to see an uptick in the number of surveys/valuations not being completed because our surveyors have assessed the risk as too high, often because the occupants won’t comply.
This clearly presents issues for all housing market stakeholders, especially in the current climate, where everyone tends to want their survey/valuation yesterday, especially if they want to complete a purchase/sale pre-stamp duty holiday deadline.
While we appreciate this is a more difficult ask when it comes to tenant occupiers, it really is incumbent on all of us to do everything we can to inform those living at the property what the guidelines are, what we require of them, and how a lack of compliance is going to ultimately only slow the process down.
So, whether you’re an adviser or an agent, or indeed any part of the process that has access with the client, we need to be singing from the same hymn sheet, otherwise there are likely to be some disappointed people when the property visit and survey/valuation work they were relying upon doesn’t go ahead, and has to be rebooked, potentially a fair amount of time in the future.
The good news is that the market has started 2021 as it finished 2020 and we continue to see large activity levels – it’s our aim to ensure our surveyors carry out their work first time, every time. With a concerted industry message of what’s required during a pandemic, we can keep those cancelled appointments to an absolute minimum, keeping the process moving and those transactions completing.
Simon Jackson, Managing Director at SDL Surveying