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Question

551. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Justice if she will permit on-site viewings in respect of house sales and purchases in order to prevent future problems in the housing market; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5065/21]

552. Deputy Francis Noel Duffy asked the Minister for Justice if she will permit physical home viewings in adherence with public health guidelines. [5266/21]

Answer

Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): I propose to take Questions Nos. 551 and 552 together.
The Minister for Health is primarily responsible for our overall national COVID-19 strategy.  The Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) is the statutory body established under the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011, with responsibility to licence and regulate property services providers (auctioneers, estate agents, letting agents and property management agents). 
To be of assistance I have contacted the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) who have supplied the following information about the current guidance developed by them in this regard. 
On 19 May 2020, the PSRA in association with the Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers (IPAV) and the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) issued the Joint Sector Protocol for Property Services Providers (PSPs). The Protocol is intended to ensure strict precautions are taken to provide the highest standards of safety in the sales, lettings, valuations and managements of properties in the best interest of clients, consumers, employees, employers and those who are categorised as being at risk or at high risk of Covid-19.
This document gives detailed guidelines for consideration prior to arranging a viewing of a property, what happens during a viewing, post viewing tasks and what to do when a rental agreement is reached including: 
- Confirm whether a respective client is cocooning or in an at risk category and if so, identify any additional precautionary measures that may be required.
- Agree with the owner/occupier that they will not be in the property at the time of viewing.
- Agree with owner/occupier and note all touch points in the dwelling for the property service provider (PSP) to sanitise after viewing (e.g. door handles, light switches etc.).
- Agree with owner/occupier the use of official Covid-19 signage at locations throughout the property to act as a useful reminder to viewers to follow the HSE rules.
- Pre-booked private appointment viewings only.
- Contact viewer(s) in advance to confirm booking and advise of controls in place and that HSE Covid-19 official instructions must be adhered to during viewings.
- PSPs should ask viewers to remain a reasonable distance from the property (e.g. remain in car) until given permission by the PSP to enter the property.
Following on from the Government's publication of the Plan for Living with Covid-19, the PSRA in association with IPAV and SCSI published the Property Services Providers Guidance to implementing the Plan for Living with Covid-19, which sets out additional measures to be undertaken at the different levels outlined within the Plan.  An updated version of this Guidance issued in January 2021 to take into account the enhanced restrictions in place.  This Guidance outlines that viewings by the public of properties for sale are permitted by appointment only where:
- The property has gone sale agreed and contracts for sale drafted.
In these circumstances, viewings by one party of two people from the same household is only permitted and properties must be unoccupied at the time of appointment.
The following arrangements apply for property for rent:
- Properties to be viewed online.
- No viewings in person permitted except:
- Where the potential tenant has been offered the property. Viewing of the property takes place prior to signing of the lease and payment of a security deposit.
- In emergency circumstances.      
In these circumstances, viewings by one party of two people from the same household is only permitted.
Both the Protocol and the Guidance are subject to the Government, HSE and Department of Health guidelines on these matters. The full documents are available to view on the Property Services Regulatory Authority website at: www.psr.ie.