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PAR Obtains More Clarification on State Guidance for Business Restrictions

By: Hank Lerner, Esq. on in  | 

As the state COVID-19 business restrictions are being lifted, PAR is still working to get clarification on some of the inconsistencies that still exist in the various guidance documents. This may look similar to last week’s article, but we’ve got a few small updates for you today based on newly updated general business guidance and recent conversations with the administration.

Contact information for visitors.

The real estate guidance states that in yellow-phase counties “all businesses” must “maintain records of all appointments, including contact information for all participants.”

In a change from prior articles, PAR has secured clarification that so long as listing agents in yellow-phase counties have a record of all buyer agents who were at the property, it is reasonable for buyer agents to maintain the specific contact information for their buyers if that is necessary for later contact tracing. Or to put it another way, the state is not requiring buyer agents to provide buyer contact information to listing agents, so long as those buyer agents have the information and make it available if it becomes necessary.

There is no specific requirement to maintain contact information in green-phase counties… but one might hope that a buyer agent is getting the correct name and contact information for any buyer they take through a property just as a basic business practice.

Open Houses.

Open houses are still prohibited in yellow-phase counties. For green-phase counties, the rules say that “where feasible, businesses should conduct business with the public by appointment only,” and where it isn’t feasible, must limit the number of customers and enforce social distancing. Because the green-phase business guidance does not explicitly ban open houses, they are likely permitted (though we are still discussing this with the administration). But listing agents should be exceedingly cautions about operating open houses, unless you’re willing and able to enforce the general safety rules. For example, to ensure social distancing, it may be necessary to limit the number of consumers allowed in the property, and/or to establish a flow through the property to ensure that consumers don’t end up in the same place at the same time. Depending on the size, layout and desirability of a property, it could take two to three agents to ensure that this is done well (remember that the state Real Estate Commission has indicated an open house can only be operated by a licensee).

Similarly, while there isn’t a specific requirement to maintain visitor contact information in green-phase counties, you should consider whether to more strongly enforce sign-in policies at open houses so you’re able to provide that information in the event it becomes necessary to do contract tracing. But if you are going to enforce getting legit names and contact information from consumers (OK…fine…I have used a fake name at an open house – you caught me!), you should also be sure to provide those consumers with a more obvious opportunity to opt out of future contacts. It is not going to go over well if you require a phone number or email “for safety purposes,” but then abuse it for marketing.

Wearing masks and other stuff that should probably be done, but that agents and buyers are trying to avoid.

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times: Don’t Get Cute. We have heard from brokers and agents arguing that they don’t want to enforce mask restrictions at showings, so they (and/or their clients) are trying to pick apart the general business guidance to figure out ways to justify that position. And there are plenty of other thoughts about how to avoid some provision or another through creative interpretations of the guidance. Just stop it. Please. It is true that green-phase guidance no longer includes rules that specifically apply only to listed properties. Instead, the rules refer to the “premises” of a business where “employees” serve members of the “public.” We’ve heard (almost) every version of the arguments that try to pick apart these terms as they relate to real estate, but all those arguments miss the key underlying point of masks – they are for the protection of others. When an agent takes buyers through a listed property, the masks are not just to protect the buyers and agents from each other, but also to protect the property owners from anything they might leave behind. Regardless of your personal opinions or those of your clients, please remember to respect all the other individuals involved in the transaction by playing by the rules and, where there are potential discrepancies, by going along with the spirit of the rules even if the words are a bit unclear.

Is the Pandemic Driving More People to the Suburbs?

“We see lingering effects of the coronavirus on shopping behavior and preferences. In the Northeast, especially, people are now as likely as before the pandemic to be looking for a home in a market that’s not where they currently live. However, those looking elsewhere are much more likely to be looking in smaller, nearby markets,” said realtor.com® Chief Economist Danielle Hale.

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Comments (11)

Comments

  • Neal Baldwin   June 5, 2020 at 7:33 am

    As always, a concise analysis combined with sage advice. Thank you Hank.

    Reply to Neal Baldwin
    • Kevin Juliano   June 5, 2020 at 8:06 am

      Thanks Scott. We’ve updated the business guidance office link in the article since the PDF has been removed from the internet.

      Reply to Kevin Juliano
  • Nancy Wright   June 5, 2020 at 9:52 am

    Thanks for the update. I’m glad that it is getting a little less complicated – sort of!

    Reply to Nancy Wright
  • PATRICIA J CHAPPLE   June 5, 2020 at 10:59 am

    Advise from Hank is required reading with my morning coffee.

    Reply to PATRICIA J CHAPPLE
  • Robert   June 5, 2020 at 11:20 am

    Apparently according to Governor wolf social distancing is now over. He had no problem getting into huge crowd of protesters the other day.

    Reply to Robert
  • Vince Range   June 5, 2020 at 11:49 am

    Thank you!

    Reply to Vince Range
  • Pat Rossman-Foley   June 5, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    Thank you Hank for the informative update. We appreciate all that you have done to keep us informed during these trying times and look forward to future updates

    Reply to Pat Rossman-Foley
  • David Stull   June 5, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    This morning …wearing a mask was not my largest problem. Kind of easy to do .Some people look better with a mask….

    Reply to David Stull
  • Patricia Crane   June 5, 2020 at 3:03 pm

    Once again, Hank gives sage advice that is clear and concise. Keep doing what you’re doing, Hank. We all appreciate it.

    Reply to Patricia Crane
  • spencer speros   June 5, 2020 at 8:28 pm

    GOOD TIMING TO REDUCE SOMEWHAT THE PAPER WORK. WE ARE GETTING BUSIER AND THAT HELPS

    Reply to spencer speros

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