Coronavirus: Foxtons tells tenant having COVID-19 'cannot stop landlord viewings'

Greg Heffer, political reporter

A tenant who was told that having coronavirus "does not qualify as grounds to prevent access" to a property for sales or lettings viewings has been offered compensation.

Estate agents Foxtons were forced to make the offer - and issue an apology - after a staff member in one of their London branches told a tenant that having coronavirus "cannot and indeed should not impact on your landlord's plans".

The branch also told the tenant they could self-isolate "anywhere" but the property they were renting.

In an email, seen by Sky News, that was sent by Foxtons' South Kensington branch, the tenant was told: "I am sympathetic to anyone who either had coronavirus or might have it, but it does not qualify as grounds to prevent access.

"Your obligation as a tenant to allow access for sales/lettings viewings as per clause 11.2 of your tenancy agreement, which I've enclosed, are very clear.

"If you have coronavirus or have symptoms it cannot and indeed should not impact your landlord's plans.

"You can self-isolate anywhere i.e. your boyfriend's/parents/friends property."

Government advice is for anyone who has a high temperature or new continuous cough to stay at home for seven days if they live alone, or 14 days if they live in a household with others.

Foxtons admitted they "fell far short" of their "excellent customer service" in this case.

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"We have been in touch with the tenant to apologise unreservedly and offer compensation," a spokesman added.

"We are taking the COVID-19 outbreak extremely seriously and we have reiterated to our staff that whatever the situation, anyone's self-isolation should not be interrupted.

"Even in these uncertain times, many Londoners continue to require safe accommodation."

The tenant also received an email from Foxtons' chief operating officer Patrick Franco, who offered to "make things right".

"I've asked the Foxtons team to ensure you have no viewings whilst you self-isolate, and have also spoken to the staff member you dealt with to ensure this doesn't happen again," he wrote.

"His behaviour was indefensible, and I can only apologise to you."

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Earlier this week, the government promised emergency legislation to suspend new evictions from social or rented accommodation for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.

Under urgent new laws, landlords will not be able to start proceedings to evict tenants for at least three months, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ministers have also confirmed a three-month mortgage holiday will be extended to landlords whose tenants are experiencing difficulties due to coronavirus.