A Note on “Essential Business”
Initial COVID-19 orders and advisories distinguished between “life-sustaining” and “non-life-sustaining” businesses. Significant limitations were placed on real estate practice because it was deemed to be a non-life-sustaining business.
More recent orders and advisories no longer make any such distinction. In the current regulatory environment, there are no “life-sustaining” or “essential” businesses that get preferential treatment. Rather, business rules apply to all businesses across the board except for a few select categories (such as restaurants, bars and gyms) that have been specifically identified as higher risk. This means that there are currently no additional restrictions specifically being placed on real estate practice – though some of the nuances of real estate practice may lead to some unique challenges while interpreting the orders.
These orders, however, have started using the term “essential” in certain descriptions (e.g., businesses should prohibit “non-essential visitors”; individuals should only leave home for “essential needs” and not have others in their homes unless for “activities that are essential” for the well-being of members of the household).
PAR believes the three essentials to life are food, clothing and shelter, and that the work of Realtors® is essential to provide shelter for Pennsylvanians. That said, it must be recognized that not every real estate service is equally essential at every moment.
To aid in the state’s mitigation efforts, and to avoid creating additional transmission risks that might result in additional real estate restrictions, Realtors® should discuss this guidance with seller clients to determine whether, and in what circumstances, they will feel comfortable having buyers and others in their homes. Realtors® should also discuss with buyer clients whether certain services are truly necessary to do in-person, or whether remote services are sufficient.