A message from our Senior Partner
Over the past couple of weeks we have been continually monitoring the situation regarding COVID-19 and have been putting in place contingency plans for anything that the changing circumstances may bring.
I am writing to you to share with you the contingency plans that we have in place to ensure that wherever possible normal service is maintained irrespective of what the unprecedented situation involving the coronavirus may throw at us.
Over the past couple of weeks we have introduced a stringent sanitisation protocol at each of our offices. Handshaking has long since been dropped; desks, phones and office equipment are regularly sanitised; and staff and visitors to our offices are instructed to sanitise hands upon entering the building.
We are now encouraging all viewing arrangements to switch from open viewings to viewings by appointment.
The viewings can be organised either through our office or directly with our clients as you wish.
If an appointment is made the viewers must confirm:
- whether they or anyone in their current residing property have been abroad in the past four months and in particular whether they have visited a country which is particularly affected by the virus and in this situation the viewing would not be permitted to proceed.
- that they or anyone in their current residing property are not suffering from any symptoms of the virus
- that they or anyone in their current residing property are not self-isolating for any reason
- that they agree to sanitise their hands on arrival
If the viewer is not prepared to agree to the foregoing they would not be permitted to view the property. Remember not to shake hands.
Note that if open viewing slots such as Sunday 2-4pm are still the best time for viewings for you, we will endeavour to arrange viewings for you during this time slot. The only difference is that by changing to “by appointment only”, viewers call us or clients directly so that we can vet them as reasonably as possible prior to the viewing. We will still be offering our viewing agency service for those that require it as normal.
Detailed Contingency Planning
We are in an unprecedented and uncertain situation.
We continue to monitor the changing situation as it unfolds but we have the following contingency plans in place.
Over the weekend our software and IT providers have put in place a facility which allows all of our staff to work from home with full access to the communication, case management and accounting systems of the firm should this be necessary.
As the days and weeks progress we have now placed ourselves in a position where we can deal with every contingency as it unfolds:-
- For now we have maintained a vigorous sanitised office regime where we can operate as normal.
- The next phase may involve some of our staff being obliged to self-isolate as a result of perhaps a partner or family member being diagnosed as having symptoms giving rise to the suspicion of infection. That member of staff will be able to work from home will full access to all of the management systems of the office. Calls can be dealt with from home although there may be a delay in returning calls because of the extended lines of communication.
- If schools are closed, inevitably this puts pressure on members of staff who have to then stay at home to look after children. Again, those staff members will have access to our systems and will be able to work from home. In the meantime the offices will function as normal.
- Complete UK wide lockdown. In the event that the situation deteriorates to a complete nationwide lockdown scenario and the main offices are obliged to close, our systems allow all staff members to work from home to ensure that a full service is maintained. Obviously in a UK wide lockdown scenario there could inevitably be a delay in settlement of transactions because of practical complications regarding removals and so on but obviously the other side of the transaction will be in a similar situation so we envisage that several transactions may be delayed depending on circumstances. In the meantime normal conveyancing can be administered remotely with telephone and email communications with clients and Solicitors on the other side of the transactions proceeding as normal. This may also impact on the day to day marketing of sales with viewings grinding to a temporary halt. If this happens, we believe online activity/views of properties will increase and we will manage appropriately any interest to ensure that when the lockdown comes to an end, we can act on the interest accordingly.
Obviously no one yet knows the effect that this virus will have on the economic activity of the country but we are well prepared to deal with every contingency with our communication, case management, banking and telephone facilities now equipped to deal with anything the coronavirus may impact.
It has been an incredible couple of weeks of contrast. We are still witnessing hectic activity on both sales and purchases with closing dates for many of our sales properties and our purchase solicitors being kept busy with most properties that our clients are interested in going to closing dates. This is all against a backdrop of challenging times with the effect of coronavirus on day to day activity and demonstrates the incredible resilience of the house buying public who for now at least appear determined to proceed as normal.
We may be in for a bumpy ride but the market generally appears incredibly resilient, and we at Neilsons have the capacity to ensure that we can conduct business as usual no matter what happens going forward.
If you have any concerns, however, please contact the solicitor or staff member dealing with your transaction.
These are unprecedented times and Neilsons has certainly traded through some rather challenging periods during our 40+ year history. We remain committed first and foremost to our family of staff and clients and to working with the wider community to continue with a positive attitude and a sturdy spirit.