Viewings - health and safety matters

Posted on 27 Mar

The company was not in breach of any guidelines for estate agents nor were there any Health and Safety Executive recommendations particularly relating to a property being offered for sale.”

and

“No company of estate agents in the country has a written procedure nor was he aware of any having special rules in the case of a property being part of a deceased estate.”

These are two quotes from the defence counsel for estate agents Strakers, taken from The Swindon Gazette, relating to the poor lady who fell down a well in April last year at a probate property where an open house viewing was taken place.

The Health & Safety Executive investigated what had happened, resulting in a £200,000 fine to the agent instructed, Strakers.

One of the first questions I used to ask a seller when instructed was: “Is there anything we need to know about the property when showing people round?”

Anything they said – granny in a certain room, an over-friendly dog, a stiff garage door, etc – was always passed on to staff and a note made on file.

All of this makes sense and is common practice.

However, the issue, raised in the second quote, is what you do when the relevant source of information is an absentee landlord who has never visited the property, or is a home owner who is deceased.

Most agents do use common sense, and on reading this will make their own judgement on changes in the way they assess risk.

However all would, I’m sure, welcome specific guidance from the HSE on probate sales.

Let’s hope what they DON’T do is commission a worthy group of civil servants, who probably have little idea of the day to day issues estate agents face, in months of protracted waffle. The likely result would be a huge complicated document covering every single possible risk decipherable only by lawyers. When that happens it usually results in little useable substance and more costs the industry doesn’t need.

As a company providing viewing services to agents, safety concerns that might affect Viewbers and viewers are requested at the booking stage – and to date information provided has been clear and to a high standard – which is exactly what I’d expect from the vast majority of agents who care about what they’re doing.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this was a very rare incident, but from which we can all learn.

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