In July 1986, estate agent Suzy Lamplugh went missing after meeting with a client to show them around a house in Fulham, London.
Since then, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, founded by her parents, has been raising awareness about the importance of personal safety. This began as a concern to the lack of thought given to workers meeting with clients alone. However, the trust now provides support and advice for anyone living or working on their own.
Communication when working alone
For those in a customer-facing job, such as landlords and letting or estate agents, communication is important. Your colleagues should know when you are going to meet a client alone and when to expect you back. Having a quick way to alert someone if you need help, such as a panic button, is a good idea.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust also points out that any money you have on you should be kept out of sight.
Personal safety when working from home
Working from home is now the norm for many, and, although you might only have video calls with clients, you should still bear personal safety in mind.
First of all, you should avoid letting them know that you are working from home. In general, it’s best to keep personal information private if possible, in order to keep your work and home life separate. It’s one thing for a client to know the location of an office you work at, but you should be able to feel that at the end of the working day, you can feel safe and relaxed at home.
Even as a landlord, it is not necessary to provide a home address these days. An email address and phone number are enough for tenants and letting agents to contact you in an emergency.
Personal safety is also about more than physical wellbeing. An angry client might make you feel unsafe, even over a video chat or phone call. Having colleagues check in with each other throughout the day allows you to voice any concerns you have.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust also advises that if a client does need to visit your house, use a room that does not disclose any personal information about you.
Personal safety when working out and about
Make sure to tell your colleagues where you are going and at what times. If everyone keeps their schedules public, then it will be easier for them to tell if something is not right.
In the situation that you are with a client who is making you feel unsafe, it is worth having a reason prepared to excuse yourself. In this case, have a plan to head to a safe place and contact someone to let them know where you are.
Sometimes you may end up in a confrontation unintentionally. For example, you may have organised a property inspection and, although you gained permission from the tenant to enter, there might be conflict over the state of the property. Be mindful of the most direct route to an exit and be sure to leave at the first sign of hostility. It is not worth your personal safety to remain in the building during such situations. If a tenant is already known to show hostility, then you should not visit alone.
Staying safe when it’s dark
If possible, it’s best to avoid visiting clients after sunset. However, we know this does become more challenging in the winter months. If you must meet with someone in the evening for a property viewing, take a bright flashlight with you. As always, if you have the option to go with another colleague, do so! It’s just not worth putting yourself at risk.
We would also like to highlight that, although we might feel considerably safer attending meetings in daylight, it was 12:40 pm in July when Suzy Lamplugh went out to meet a client. She was last seen at 1:00 pm on that day in 1986 and we still don’t know what happened to her.
For support, advice, and to find out more about the work the Suzy Lamplugh Trust does, visit www.suzylamplugh.org.