What Are Surveyors Actually Allowed To Do?

Decoding The Coronavirus Lockdown Rules For Property Professionals.

We all know that listening to the science on coronavirus is really important, especially now, but the government’s come in for a lot of criticism over its advice to business during the coronavirus crisis.

“I cannot stand here and tell you that by the end of June that we will be on the downward slope,” Johnson said on 20 March. “It’s possible but I simply can’t say that that’s for certain. We don’t know how long this thing will go on for. But what I can say is that this is going to be finite.”

Translation: it’ll be ending at some point before the Rapture. Crystal clear. Since then we’ve moved into full-on lockdown, with stringent measures in place to stop people passing coronavirus around.

As a Member of the RICS or working within the property profession what can you do and what can’t you do? Where should you go and where shouldn’t you go? What’s safe and what’s potentially unwise?

Here are some of our advice for the property industry, which does meet all government guidance and RICS regulations.

What does the new advice change? What can’t I do that I could before?

Monday evening’s address from Johnson changed pretty much everything. Every “non-essential” shop is closed, as are libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship. They were pretty much the only places still open after Friday’s order to close pubs, restaurants and places you’d usually hang out and have a big laugh. Weddings and baptisms are off too. You can still exercise, but only for one session a day outside. Don’t take the piss and go for a four-hour run though. The London marathon’s been punted to autumn anyway.

You can go outside to pick up food from the shops – “infrequently”, the government insists – or to look after a vulnerable person, or to get to and from work if it’s “absolutely necessary”. That last one, like a lot of the government’s guidance, is kind of open to interpretation, but really you shouldn’t be going anywhere.

PRE are still able to operate our multidisciplinary services, however only on when the projects meet specific criteria. We have had to really adapt and be flexible, for example not using public transport and working out of hours of the property is occupied.  Using Zip Cars for each surveyor to travel and proving PPE.

Can I still carry out Surveys?

Surveyors should not expect to carry out non-urgent surveys in homes or buildings where people are in residence, and no inspections should take place if any person in the property is showing symptoms, self-isolating or being shielded.

It may be possible to carry out some of your work online and also carry out urgent surveys on empty properties, or those where the occupants are out of the property or following guidance to stay at home and away from others.

  • Surveyors should follow the latest government guidance which currently (26 March 2020) states that work carried out in people’s homes or placed of work can continue, provided the surveyor is well and has no symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • It is important to ensure government guidelines are followed, including maintaining a 2 metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).
  • No work should be carried out by a person who has coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, however mild.

PRE are no longer working in teams or groups and now surveying properties by ourselves.  This does add more time onto the project however allows us to still attend.

What about Viewings of Properties?

If your property is already on the market, you can continue to advertise it as being for sale or lettings but you should not allow people in to view your property.

  • There should not be any visitors into your home or place of work, and you should therefore not let people visit your property for viewings. Your agent may be able to conduct virtual viewings and you could speak to them about this possibility.  However if the property is vacant, then this will not apply.

PRE clients are still marketing properties and are using PropTech to combat the problem of access.

Buying and selling properties during this stay-at-home period

Given the situation in the UK with regard to the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), the government urge parties involved in home moving to adapt and be flexible to alter their usual processes.

There is no need to pull out of transactions, but we all need to ensure we are following guidance to stay at home and away from others at all times, including the specific measures for those who are presenting symptoms, self-isolating or shielding. Prioritising the health of individuals and the public must be the priority.

Where the property being moved into is vacant, then you can continue with this transaction although you should follow the guidance in this document on home removals.

Where the property is currently occupied, we encourage all parties to do all they can to amicably agree alternative dates to move, for a time when it is likely that stay-at-home measures against coronavirus (COVID-19) will no longer be in place.

In the new emergency enforcement powers that the police have been given to respond to coronavirus, there is an exemption for critical home moves, in the event that a new date is unable to be agreed.

Recognising parties will need to alter common practice, the government have sought to ease this process for all involved by:

  1. Issuing this guidance, developed with Public Health England, to home buyers and those involved in the selling and moving process.
  2. Agreeing with banks that mortgage offers should be extended where delay to completions takes place in order to prioritise safety.

Working with conveyancers to develop a standard legal process for moving completion dates.

People are still using the Tube. Is it safer to get the bus? Should I be going anywhere?

If you live in London, Tube services are being cut down and 40 stations have been shut. Sadiq Khan really wants you to stop moving around if you don’t need to.

“I can’t say this clearly enough,” the mayor said on 20 March. “People should not be travelling by any means unless they absolutely must. The scientific advice on this is very clear. Londoners should be avoiding social interaction unless absolutely necessary.”

There isn’t really a ‘safest’ form of public transport either.

“It just takes one person to have been there before you got on and left lots of the virus around, or while you’re there,” says Yardley. “You wouldn’t necessarily know that the person that was in your seat 10 minutes ago was coughing their guts up all over it.”

All of which makes the lack of guidance on how to get to hospital without using public transport or a taxi all the more puzzling.

PRE are using Zip cars to travel to and from vacant properties or sites.

Can I meet my clients or co-workers? They’re not coughing or anything yet.

Gatherings of more than two people are out of the question, aside from people in your household. It’s just you and your flatmates/partner/family for the foreseeable. Children whose parents live in different houses will be allowed to move between them though.  however if this is work related then yes you can meet your co-workers however two metres away from each other.  We are using conference calls with camera activated for a more effective meeting, we are human after all.

What about getting the train across the country? Does it matter where I’m going to and from?

Although the government has said this is not a good idea. If you go to a different city, the risk is you’ll transmit between cities, the whole point of the self-isolation thing is to slow the spread of coronavirus across the country and give the NHS time and capacity to treat people. Travelling out of London to visit buildings in other cities isn’t advised, as infection rates are far higher in the capital and you’re likely to speed up the spread of coronavirus that way.

Equally if you’re going into London – everyone who’s outside of London should avoid it if they possibly can, because they don’t want to bring back infection from there.

However, if this is for work purposes there is no reason why you cannot drive to a property or site for inspection a long as you are following the guidelines and distancing, taking all the precautions.  PPE is advisable and all precautions taken.

If I’ve got symptoms, how long do I self-isolate? Two weeks? More?

This one’s got a lot of people confused. The government and NHS say: “If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus illness (Covid-19), however mild, stay at home for seven days from when your symptoms started.

“If you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms of coronavirus, then you must stay at home for seven days, but all other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.”

The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it’s possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you’re in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more advice, visit the following recommended websites:


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