The last few days have been extremely trying and chaotic for so many of us. Trying to help our clients during a pandemic is probably one of the greatest challenges we’ll ever face.
I wanted to let you know how incredibly hard your association has been working on your behalf and how we’re continuing to advocate for homeownership. PAR’s leadership team, staff and local association executives have had numerous conference calls and countless texts and emails since the governor’s order on Thursday and will continue to be in constant communications as long as needed.
Governor’s Office Appeal
The association has been contacting the governor’s office, legislators, the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs and the Real Estate Commission, looking for clarification on Gov. Wolf’s recent restrictions issued to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. We filed an appeal requesting that the governor re-classify real estate as a life-sustaining industry, but the governor’s revised guidance issued on Friday afternoon changed little for real estate. We will continue to press the need for relief for your clients who are nearing settlement/moving deadlines and for greater clarity for other real estate service providers.
We have teamed up with seven associations — the Pennsylvania Land Title Association, Pennsylvania Builders Association, Pennsylvania Bankers Association, Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers, Pennsylvania Apartment Association, Pennsylvania Residential Owners Association and Pennsylvania Credit Union Association — representing nearly 50,000 members, to advocate for the real estate industry and our clients. We’ve asked the governor to issue an executive order or otherwise support legislation to allow electronic notarization.
In addition, the coalition has requested the state legislature move legislation being introduced by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Adams) and Rep. Mark Keller (R-Perry) to authorize the electronic notarization of documents, and legislation being introduced by Rep. Aaron Kaufer (R-Luzerne) to allow self-employed individuals to collect unemployment compensation during emergency situations. The coalition is also urging legislators to consider including legislation to establish a rental assistance fund, a mortgage assistance fund and grant extensions to building permits, in any relief packages intended to address the economic hardships created by this pandemic.
PAR continues to receive a number of practice-related questions through PAR’s Legal Hotline, particularly regarding closing and agreement of sale addendums. A record number of you have contacted PAR’s Legal Hotline to get clarification or guidance on a variety of issues related to the pandemic and the legal team continues to answer your questions from their homes. If you have questions, first visit PARealtors.org/coronavirus. PAR is updating this resource for you daily to reflect the latest information we have.
Questions abound as to whether settlement companies can proceed, and if so, under what circumstances. Recent guidance from the governor’s office has been interpreted by some companies that title companies can continue with closings. This could result in many of you seeing different practices being used across the state. Contact your title company to determine whether they are continuing to do business.
At this time, best practice is to explore offering virtual services, as much as possible, so as to avoid face-to-face personal contact, or to stop these sorts of activities altogether. The governor’s order will not be legally enforced until 8:00 a.m. on Monday, March 23, however, delayed enforcement is not the same as saying the order does not apply. The best advice is to contact all related providers to determine whether they are operating and consult brokerage counsel to discuss what steps can be taken to conduct business while staying in compliance with the closure order.
As previously noted, PAR has quickly created an addendum (Form COVID) for you to use to in the event a transaction isn’t able to move forward during the COVID-19 crisis. The addendum pauses the transaction so everyone can let the current situation settle and see what can be done in the upcoming days and weeks. With the uncertainty of not knowing whether county recorder of deeds’ offices, title companies, inspectors and mortgage providers are available to provide services, the need for the addendum was significant.
Continue to visit PARealtors.org/coronavirus for the latest information.