Agents urged to follow strict Covid-19 protocols
As South Africa finds itself in the midst of an escalating third wave Covid-19 infections, the adjusted Alert Level 4 measures that were announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday (27 June 2021) are intended to allow as much economic activity to continue as possible while containing the spread of the virus.
As per the published regulations, all businesses including real estate may continue to operate except for those specifically set out in Table 1, says Tony Clarke, chairman of the Real Estate Business Owners of South Africa (REBOSA). “We are therefore encouraging Estate Agents to continue to operate, but to do so in accordance with strict health and safety measures – as set out in the sector-specific health protocols – which ensures safe and responsible trading by estate agents.
“Safety is obviously a major concern, and ever since the start of this pandemic 16 months ago we have been engaged in continuous discussion around ways to ensure that social distancing and stringent hygiene protocols remain in place during all real estate activities – even more so in the face of infection rate spikes like the one we’re currently facing,” he says.
“Unfortunately, the third wave is growing much faster than our vaccination figures, which means now is not the time to drop our guard. We need to be alert and operate as efficiently as possible, enabling real estate transactions to continue without risking our and our clients’ health and safety.”
In addition to ensuring that all sector-specific health and safety protocols are in place at all times, REBOSA has the following recommendations in terms of navigating operations amidst current restrictions :
Viewings and Show Houses
To reduce risk during interactions with clients and members of the public, REBOSA recommends that show houses are not conducted during the next two weeks – especially in the Gauteng Province where the infection rate accounts for more than 60 percent of new cases nationally. Wherever possible, properties should be shown to potential buyers or tenants via videos or 3D virtual tours, which even allow for showing a specific property to multiple clients at once.
Agents should try limiting in-person viewings to qualified buyers and tenants as far as possible, thereby ensuring that everyone involved is less exposed. As has been the recommendation since March last year, agents should also never travel in the same vehicle as their clients, and should also ensure that general safety measures such as maximum ventilation, social distancing, proper sanitisation and masks are in place at all times.
REBOSA also recommends that all viewings and other business activities cease by 8pm, so as to ensure that agents and clients can be at their own residences before the 9pm curfew.
In terms of the latest regulations, a gathering for the purposes of an auction will not be permitted until 11 July 2021, after which it will be reviewed. We recommend that individual viewings of properties up for auction be arranged with interested buyers, after which an online auction can be conducted.
Commuting and moving home
As announced last night, travel in and out of Gauteng for any reasons other than business, the transportation of goods or to attend funerals is not permitted. Agents needing to traverse Gauteng provincial borders to get to work or back home, will require a relevant permit. This can be obtained by filling in form 7A, which can be found here: http://www.thedtic.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/FORM-71.pdf
As per the gazetted regulations pertaining to moving residences, tenants and buyers are allowed to travel for this purpose during adjusted Alert Level 4, including in and out of the Gauteng province. REBOSA suggests that agents recommend to their clients to have a copy of their agreement of sale or lease on their person, in case this is for some reason requested by authorities.
In line with current restrictions, employers should allow employees to work from home unless it is absolutely necessary for them to work on-site.
REBOSA encourages agents to work from home whenever possible, minimising in-office exposure. In the event that support staff are needed to work at the office, strict in-office hygiene controls and screening should also be employed, while social distancing and mask wearing should be enforced at all times.
“We now have almost a year and half of concrete evidence that abiding by strict Covid-19 protocol does not affect an agent’s ability to successfully facilitate a property transaction,” Clarke says.
“Anyone saying differently is either not up to the task of adapting to the new normal, or simply doesn’t care about the wellbeing of the people around them. Buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants should make a point of confirming their agents are following best practices, and demand better from them if they are not behaving with the professionalism our industry expects. REBOSA encourages homeowners to report agents who are not adhering to these critical protocols. Agents can be held liable and face the consequences, which include fines and possible imprisonment.”
Last year, REBOSA published an extensive set of Covid-19 workplace readiness guidelines and templates for use by the real estate industry. According to Clarke, these guidelines have been instrumental in minimising virus transmission in the industry so far and enabling agents to safely and effectively serve their clients’ needs.
To view the complete REBOSA Covid-19 guidelines, visit https://www.rebosa.co.za/rebosa-covid-19-workplace-readiness-guidelines/