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Guidance for agents likely to be issued on viewings safety following £200,000 fine

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NAEA Propertymark said at the weekend that it will seek to work with the Health and Safety Executive in order to issue guidance to agents.

It would mean that for the first time there would be official health and safety guidelines for agents to follow in regard to viewings.

It could mean that agents would have to risk-assess every single property coming on to their books.

The guidelines could also specifically include special guidelines for the risk assessment of older properties.

The move follows last week’s court case where an agent was fined £200,000 after a woman fell down a 30ft disused well during an open house viewing of a probate property last April.

The barrister appearing for the agents, Strakers, in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, argued that his clients had not breached any guidelines for estate agents, and nor were there any HSE guidelines relating to properties being offered for sale.

However, the Judge found Strakers’ culpability and the risk of harm to be high.

The HSE said in court that Strakers had been told of the existence of the well three days before the open house.

An employee had been sent to the property, but had not lifted the wooden board placed over it.

It was through the wooden board that the viewer, Mrs Lucy Driver, fell, suffering an ordeal that lasted over an hour in which she said she feared she would die and, she said, leaving her with post traumatic stress disorder.

It appears from the court report that Strakers still faces a civil claim from her.

The HSE also said in court that Strakers had no systems in place for risk assessment where properties that were part of a deceased person’s estate could have serious risks such as asbestos or old wiring systems.

After the case Antony Bulley, Strakers managing director, said directors and staff had been “deeply distressed” by the incident.

He said: “We wish to make it known that Strakers have carried out extensive internal investigations and have fully cooperated with the Health and Safety Executive throughout, culminating in a plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity presented.”

On Facebook, industry figure Guy Charrison said: “I feel sorry for the lady who fell down the well but also very sorry for Strakers who are a well regarded firm of auctioneers and estate agents. To risk-assess every property put on the market is ridiculous.”

At the weekend, NAEA Propertymark managing director Mark Hayward said: “In the light of this incident we will seek to work with the Health and Safety Executive to issue guidance to members.

“Agents in any event have a duty of care to assess risks to the public associated with house viewings to ensure health and safety is taken into account and appropriate systems and safeguards put in place if necessary.”

For those readers away on half-term breaks last week and who may not have read our report, this is clearly an important case with significant possible implications for both sales and lettings agents.

http://www.propertyindustryeye.com/newsflat-estate-agent-fined-200000-after-woman-fell-down-well-during-viewing/

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Source:: Guidance for agents likely to be issued on viewings safety following £200,000 fine