Dexters, the large agency taken to task over keeping offices open, has now closed the doors of all its branches and put about 1,000 of its staff on temporary leave.
Chairman Jeff Doble said last night that the business is now in “sleep mode”, but that he hopes it will emerge stronger when the coronavirus crisis is over.
Dexters had received a battering in the media after staff went to their offices to work on Tuesday after Boris Johnson’s ‘stay at home’ speech on Monday night.
However, Doble yesterday emphasised that despite all the criticism, there had been no official instructions to say that estate and letting agency offices had to close.
He also said that with 60,000 tenants in landlords’ properties, there was a considerable amount of work to be done, including getting gas safety certificates.
He said that the firm also has several hundred moves pending.
Doble said of the media criticism that the work of agents is not properly understood. He said that agents managing rental properties where tenants’ safety is a priority should be classified as essential workers: “If we were property managers in a housing association continuing to work, no one would bat an eyelid.”
Out of a total of 1,500 staff, 95% of the front office staff are now on leave until the end of May.
He said: “No one knows how long this crisis will last, but I pray that will be long enough.”
Staff being kept on, including directors and those in back office roles, will keep the business running.
Those put on leave may be furloughed, Doble said, and the scheme is being closely studied.
He told EYE yesterday evening: “We are following government guidelines absolutely to the letter, as we have done over the past few weeks. All of our offices closed their doors yesterday, and we will by tonight have wrapped up all work in progress and asked 95% of our office based colleagues to take temporary leave.
“We paid everyone in full for March on Monday and made arrangements for April.
“Whilst inevitably it takes some time and an enormous amount of effort to close down 100 offices and have conversations with 1,500 people, we are pleased to have achieved that in just 48 hours.
“We have a skeleton back room staff continuing to offer a telephone based service, dealing with the sort of sales, tenancy, rent and related safety issues that you would expect from the tens of thousands of customers that we have across London.
“Having battened down the hatches, we expect to weather the storm, during which we will be caring for both our colleagues and clientele.”