Warning issued as thefts take place in agency branches as a result of social distancing rules

Connells Group is warning the estate agency community to be vigilant following a number of recent, branch-based, incidents across its network.

Individuals have entered the premises, disrespected the social distancing rules and proceeded to steal personal property from the desks of staff, who had attempted to maintain distance.

Whilst its believed these incidences are rare, Connells Group has informed the applicable local police forces and provided guidance and support to colleagues across its branch network to stay safe and take reasonable precautions to reduce their likelihood.

The attempted and actual thefts took place in Essex, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire and mobile phones were stolen.

In one branch the quick thinking branch manager spotted the danger and stopped the thieves.

Both males and females were involved in at least two of the incidents.

Simon Arnes, Connells Group Estate Agency Operations Director, said:

“As we return to our branches, our focus must be on the health and safety of our colleagues and customers, which includes observing social distancing measures,”

“Regrettably, however, social distancing can also present new opportunities for criminal behaviour.

“In a small number of branch-based incidents, individuals entered the premises, disrespecting the distancing rules in what can be described as a distraction method, and in order to steal personal property.

“We thought it worth sharing with the estate agency community, particular when there is currently not the usual traffic on the high street, ahead of when other retail premises reopen and when opportunists may take advantage of estate agency branches being open.”


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  1. 123430

    Always be vigilant. But maybe the agents at Connells should put away their mobile phones and do some actual Estate Agency work, instead of checking their Facebook or watching a bit of youtube. The landline is quite good to call applicants, like buyers and Tenants or looking after their vendors and landlords. This is called work, perhaps they should try it!

    1. mmmm


      what a ridiculous comment.

    2. Paul

      Wow to that.

      Welcome to 2021 folks.

      We all know that mobile phones do the same job as landlines right?

      Without them then the whole remote working gig wouldn’t have happened…..

    3. praediumagens79

      Wow! The dinosaur has emerged from their cave! We know what you use yours for now though!

      Using mobile device we have all effectively virtually run our business all through lockdown, and part of the outcome of that is that we have weaned many of our clients and customers onto Zoom, FaceTime and Teams on our phones, so we can chat face to face – much more personal than just an audio call. Busy clients also like to message or text, too. So we need our phones close by as this is how clients like to get in touch in 2020, Mr T Rex!

      That said, keep the phone concealed on your desk, or desk drawer, is my advice, and listen for the audio alerts.

      1. AgencyInsider

        Did your other half run off with a Connells’ neg by any chance?

    4. spin2009

      A reply from the “Socially Distant”.

    5. smile please

      Come on, that’s a bit below the belt.


    6. Joseph60

      Really!!!!, I can only assume this is someone who has long since interacted with customers, and has no idea about how this is done in the fast paced modern world of communication.

  2. Yorkshire Agent

    The main issue is the security of furnished properties during viewings, as the advice appears to wait outside and let the light-fingered help themselves.  Clearly this is not acceptable and common sense is that the viewer/s must be accompanied around the property applying social distancing at all times.  Also noting even though viewers are told not to touch anything, our experience is they do and by seeing what is inadvertently touched can then be sanitised.

    1. DASH94

      Is anyone doing viewings on inhabited properties?  I must admit we’re not.  Video viewings only on those – certainly for rentals.

      It’s OK to unlock and stand back on an empty house, but otherwise we’re not doing it.   Most houses aren’t big enough to observe social distancing indoors and you can’t let folk wander round inhabited house without having eyes on them.  JMHO

      1. htsnom79

        Sweet Jesus mother of Mary and all her little wizards, it’s perfectly easy to do the job occupied or otherwise when you control the environment and the terms of engagement, what is the matter with everybody the virus isn’t going to just go away it’s a fact of life now no different to all the other potential pitfalls in life, without wishing to be provocative but I’m getting narked with clinically obese, smelling of smoke and alcohol mammals jumping back from me at Morrisons as if I’d tasered them when they perceive I’m too close, sorry princess but there’s a holistic way at looking at this as well.

  3. Countrybumpkin

    Opportunity knocks !

  4. Rhino

    Sadly this story shows that it is not only house hunters who show an interest in estate agents. It also perhaps highlights that it is not just house hunters who look at online property details and photos – and now the much promoted videos for virtual viewings.

    From the very early days of taking internal photographs you were conscious of trying to avoid the Ming Vase or the ‘family silver’, now the high tech equipment and more recently family/children’s photos. But now with the full Steven Speilberg showing of a house perhaps the “wrong” prying eyes will be given a ready insight into where to go for their next visit!

    I would suggest all you budding movie maker’s out there are conscious of what you are filming and hit the right balance between showing off a property and not depicting things which could cause the wrong temptation or personal intrusion of sensitive material – not easy I know but when was our job ever that easy especially now – just off to load the car with rubber gloves, sanitiser, anti-bac spray, face masks and don my Hasmat Suit for a day of viewings!

    Keep safe and well out there – and secure

    1. Yorkshire Agent

      Rhino I tend to agree with your comments about too much information, great for the criminal and not so good for the house seller.  Experience tells me buyers enjoy the experience of discovery and by giving all the information upfront spoils it for them.  For example if you were intending to go on holiday to somewhere you have never been before; but  before going you were then shown all the information such as: photos, videos and history before hand, would you feel the same about going?  I suspect not.  Selling properties is all about the excitement of the journey.  Let the viewing beat their expectations and you are virtually there.

      1. PeeBee

        Totally agree, YA. People now laugh when we tell them property was ‘sold’ with one sheet of A4 and a single front elevation miniprint clagged on straight-as-you-could.  They can’t imagine how we ever did it.
        The answer is simple – we were Estate Agents doing our jobs correctly.  Selling the sizzle – not the sausage.
        So-called “progress” has completely bu99ered that up.

        1. Retiredandrelaxed

          Ahh, the days of the good old mini print, or, before that, the black & white polaroid. In winter you had to warm it up under your armpit to get it to develop properly!

          1. PeeBee

            “…or, before that, the black & white polaroid.”

            I hope you weren’t one of the crowd that used to Letraset trees onto the photos, Retiredandrelaxed? ;o)

  5. PeeBee

    There is nothing new here – but well done to Connells in getting an article printed on the subject!
    I once had a property stolen from my office.  Okay… it was a window card and the housejacker was bat-5h!t crazy old wifey who was soonafter Sectioned – NOT for that heinous crime, I hasten to add…  but it’s one Hell of a conversation point when people tell you no-one comes into Agents’ offices these days!

    1. PeeBee

      Speaking of which… have you ever had a conversation with someone standing in your office that starts with them saying “Well… nobody ever goes into Estate Agents offices these days – do they?”
      I fear for their offspring – I really do.

  6. GPL

    Having been a Police Officer in my previous “life” I have spent years saying to colleagues re leaving unattended mobile phones, car keys, jackets with wallets hanging over chairs, handbags at the side of desk, laptops, cameras, iPads etc.
    A timely story and reminder that the “New Normal” presents our light-fingered opportunists with easy opportunities. Offices with less staff are vulnerable, somebody nips to the loo, someone walks quietly in, lifts whatever and walks quietly out …..easy to distract someone “Oh, that property in the window” …..they point vaguely and you get up and walk to inside window, meanwhile whoever they are with lifts whatever.
    Without getting paranoid, there will be an increase in opportunists as times will get harder and it’s easy to steal quietly rather than rob someone face-to-face.
    I watch people at Petrol stations walk away from their car, leaving unlocked with mobile on seat? Shopping trolleys with handbags poking up and purse looking at you, jackets hanging over chairs with wallets inside ……come to think of it, maybe that’s my next profession!
    Theft from houses could easily be targeted. As the Agent, best to get there earlier, walk around, check no back door keys in door or conservatory doors etc ……unattended “viewer” just lifts and walks out with key/s. It’s about gently advising clients re valuables/security …..without alarming them. As always, common sense ……yet, it’s amazing how complacent we become until we or a client becomes a “victim”.
    CCTV Warning Sign “politely“ in Office Window is a subtle deterrent against the opportunist as they don’t know whether you have/haven’t (bearing in mind Local Council regs for such signage).
    At least we’re not like USA, watched a YouTube Video with 3 assailants breaking into a house and the lady householder hiding, then jumping out and shooting 1 dead, wounding another and the 3rd jumped straight through the glass door whilst she kept shooting! ……I just had a wooden truncheon as defence in my “Plod” Career.  

  7. majortom1

    Blimey. With everything going on at the moment in the world of property PIE is this the best story one can come with a few Nokia 3310s stolen.

    1. PeeBee

      We’re all EYEs and ears for good content, majortom1 – in Frau Renshaw’s absence I am sure that “Eye Correspondent” or Mr Shaffman would love you to forward them all the peaches (and lemons) for them to extract the juice!

      1. majortom1

        As you say-nothing new here-move along.

        1. PeeBee

          But that’s not what I said.

    2. chiponshoulder

      I suppose they could run a story on Haart’s branch closures at the beginning of lockdown and how the hundreds of displaced staff were treated?   As a director of Haart perhaps you would care to comment in order there’s something more newsworthy on PIE?    No? …. thought not!

      Giving a ‘heads-up’ to the estate agency community that this is becoming a standard MO for criminals, and hence care should be taken by all agents is surely a responsible and relevant thing to publish?   Sorry if it bored you!

      1. majortom1

        I cant comment on Haart and the comment if you care to read it is aimed at the content not the writer. I can confirm that I have had many cameras stolen amongst other things from Estate Agents offices over the years as Im sure have the majority of Agents reading this .So why is this a headline news story ? One does protest too much Chippy.

        1. Joseph60

          ‘Can’t comment on Haart’………, mmmmm, probably nervous of doing so in the circumstances????

        2. chiponshoulder

          MajorTim1 – did it not occur to you that the story be a bit more relevant now, given that we’ve got this thing called social distancing and criminals are exploiting the 2 metres distance to grab agents’ possessions left on desks?   I think the rest of the estate agency community are grateful for the heads-up, but clearly not you!    Anyway, I’d have thought you’d be in a great position to comment on the more interesting issue of Haart’s branch closures and treatment of hundreds of displaced staff – what with you being on their board of directors?

    3. Kyran

      Really, Tim Tom; you really do make yourself look silly with these continual swipes at your employer of 30+ years.


    4. Joseph60

      Never lose an opportunity to have another bitter swipe MajorTom.  I thought it was a good heads up for those on the front line


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