Estate Agents and Property Websites — Scope | Disability forum
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Estate Agents and Property Websites

neale Community member Posts: 8 Connected
Hi! I'm Neale and I'm profoundly deaf, a BAHA user, and while I enjoy a boogie to music and an overindulgence in front of the television (I see you Stranger Things and Wimbledon fans!), one thing I struggle beyond anything is a simple telephone call. Maybe it's the unpredictability of the conversation, tone and voice, that subtitles can't fill-in for gaps, that the melody can't compensate for misunderstood lyrics (sweet dreams of cheese anybody?). A telephone call isn't just a simple pick-up for me, a hello and off you go; it's mission impossible! Quick, put down everything, sprint like Tom Cruise to the only quiet room in the building that happens to be the staff toilet, puff on the inhaler, switch to the bluetooth receiver that (thanks to a recent Apple update) is a tad unreliable, by which point the caller has given up and you look odd to everyone around you. If there was an alternative, a reasonable method for contacting an organisation or person beyond the stress and anxiety of a telephone call you'd take it, wouldn't you? I know I would, and certainly do. It saves the "Sorry, I'm deaf..." declaration if I do get through, which is then followed by an adjustment of the chair, a cough, and a raised loud voice. Ouch!

To the matter at hand... I was recently given a Section 21 notice by my estate agent as the landlord's daughter needs someplace to live (this was provided six days after the "tenancy extension meeting"). Fair enough, I'm not going to fight that no matter how disappointing it is, but within a day a familiar frustration washed over me: just how inaccessible estate agents are!! I've browsed your website, I've downloaded the brochures, I've imagined my life in that property dad dancing to terrible music, zombifying in front of the TV, hosting BBQs with friends in an apron laughing at all their jokes not having a clue what they've said, and of course jump-sliding over the kitchen table to answer those all-important phone calls - hell, I've even cried at how empty my bank will be, but I'm ready for a viewing, I'm ready to commit. The application form is filled, I've hit send... and now we wait... and wait....

I'd be lying if I said I waited after filling in each form. This process is continued repeatedly, on breaks, at lunch and dinner - goodbye social life. The same applies to Zoopla and Rightmove, the UK's most popular property websites, and yet the silence is deafening. The most I get is a courtesy email a week later: "We're sorry, this property is no longer available to let." I begin to email estate agents directly explaining my disability and that I've utilised those alternative, reasonable methods, and if they can help me. I'm getting nowhere and yet these properties have just gone on the market. So, time to send in the big guns: recruit the sibling. Within an hour: four viewings. Funny that, all because she can use the telephone.

Here's my question: why provide tools that provide accessibility if they just aren't going to be used properly? Rightmove and Zoopla both talk about creating open and inclusive environments for their employees, but why not enforce that on their users. And this isn't the first time I've experienced this. I've moved multiple times over the past decade, never through choice and never with reason for penalty, and this familiar wave I've talked about hits every time like a brick to the face. Moving house is already considered one of the most stressful things in life - let's not make it even harder for those with disabilities. How is an email different from a telephone call? According to the estate agent who responded to my sister: it shows commitment.

How many times have you heard that one before?

Every week.


  • Ross_Alumni
    Ross_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,652 Disability Gamechanger
    Sorry to hear of the issues you have experienced with the letting agents @nealle, it's a shame that there isn't an accessible enough way for you to quickly get in touch with them. I can use email or phone without issue, but would prefer email because I don't really enjoy calling strangers on the phone, but when we were looking I called every time because I knew email wouldn't get back to us quick enough.

    It would be good if they had an online booking system where it could all be done through the site, without the need to contact somebody directly.
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  • Alex_Scope
    Alex_Scope Posts: 7,562 Scope online community team
    Thanks for your post @needle it's a really insightful look into the barriers you're facing at the moment trying to find somewhere new to live.

    I agree, a lot more needs to be done to make searching for a rental property or a new home more accessible to everyone. After all, disabled people have independent lives and move around too!

    I think being able to book viewings online would certainly help, and I have seen a few properties that offer this. 

    I am just beginning this journey myself, as a wheelchair user, and rather naively assumed that sites like Rightmove and Zoopla would have an obligation to publish whether or not properties have step free or lift access. This doesn't appear to be the case!

    It makes the whole process much more uncertain and long winded, I usually inspect the photos to see if there's stairs or steps, but it's rarely clear. I would prefer using an email to ask about access, but as @Ross_Scope says, making a phone call gets you answers much quicker. 
     According to the estate agent who responded to my sister: it shows commitment.
    I'm certainly getting this impression as well, it just doesn't seem to occur that a phone call isn't a possibility for some people, and it feels very exclusionary.

    I'm glad you've been able to call on support. Keep us up to date with how you get on, and I wish you the best of luck for your search and move. 
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  • Biblioklept
    Biblioklept Community member Posts: 3,899 Disability Gamechanger
    edited July 2022
    I had the same problem @neale!! I'm not deaf but I can't use the telephone for other reasons and when I try I really struggle to understand what's being said or going on. I moved a while back now but it took so long and estate agents just weren't set up for not using the phone to contact. 
    I found one that had an online booking system via an app but they'd then try and phone to confirm which didn't work for me. 
    Emailing estate agents direct after seeing properties on RightMove etc helped a bit but usually by the time they got round to looking at emails the properties or viewing appointments had gone.  :( 


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