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

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: “The directors and staff of Strakers are deeply distressed by the incident which took place in April 2016 and Mrs Driver’s well-being is of continued concern.

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

“Our aim and wish is to ensure that everything possible is done to avoid any similar incident occurring in the future to any member of the public or our staff.”

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 answer to a question from EYE: “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.


Email the story to a friend


  1. sb007ck

    Firstly, with all respect to what has happened a little common sense needed to be displayed by the agent. “There’s a well over there, please don’t go near it”….pretty sure that is sufficient, doubt roadwork style cones and lights are needed.

    Secondly, this case has been rumbling on for almost a year, if Health and Safety was really a concern of NAEA, why havent they said something sooner, or even better, before hand?

  2. smile please

    Love the way NAEA jump on this within days. Yet abolishment of letting fees, misleading adverts from some of their members, The strange stance they have with OTM. All just seem like too much hard work for them.

    Could it be they feel they can make more money out of H & S

    NAEA always managing to shoot itself in the foot.

    1. AgentV

      Easy win good publicity without the conflict of possibly upsetting any of it’s members?

      It takes more guts to stand up and be counted for other things more relevant to the majority of its members!

      1. AgentV

        Such as…….false and misleading marketing by one member targeting the majority of its other members!

  3. eltell

    How can an agent protect itself from a simple ‘trip and fall’ incident like walking up an uneven garden path for example ?

    1. Peter

      Welcome to the letting’s world!

  4. Ding Dong

    TBH, the Kumarasary V Edwards Supreme Court decision on the tenant tripping up over a communal paving stone was another recent warning.

    Agents need to conduct risk assessments on properties before take on, to ensure the safety of staff, contractors and potential clients.  The “industry” person who suggests risk assessing every property is ridiculous, IMHO, does not understand the problems which albeit not frequent, can occur and can be very problematic.

    In our office, we recently conducted a review on our lone working policy and being honest, we were not checking properties for mobile signals, checking properties to ensure that there was electricity and also providing information to members of staff about escape routes out of the property i.e. does the rear exit from the property go into an enclosed garden.

    I totally agree that 99.9% of the time, nothing will ever occur, but the 0.01% it does, then from a litigation point of view, you will be happy that you conducted the relevant risk assessment and acted upon its findings.

    1. smile please

      You are of course right.

      BUT what ever happened to common sense? – The public and the company.

      And lets face it, you can carry out every single H & S assessment on every, place of work, car, property, route to the property but there will always be the time when something unforeseen will go wrong.

      1. AgentV

        A few years ago my young daughter broke her arm at her local gymnastics club. We were chased several times by ‘accident legal service companies’ who had presumably purchased our details from someone at the hospital we attended. We were encouraged to sue the club. Both my wife and I were in total agreement….it was an accident, a risk of doing gymnastics….so we told the accident chasing companies where to go! If we had sued it would have put the club out of business …and then hundreds of youngsters would have lost out on something they really enjoyed taking part in!!!



You must be logged in to report this comment!

Comments are closed.

Thank you for signing up to our newsletter, we have sent you an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Additionally if you would like to create a free EYE account which allows you to comment on news stories and manage your email subscriptions please enter a password below.