On Feb. 19, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a fourth renewal of the COVID-19 emergency declaration first signed on March 6, 2020. This extends the state’s emergency powers for an additional 90 days, unless terminated sooner.
The primary outcome of this extension is that it simply maintains the status quo with existing state orders on various subjects. PAR continues to maintain an extensive FAQ on our website, along with a set of suggested best practices. Here are some of the highlights:
Masks: The current universal masking order (effective Nov.18, 2020) requires that masks be worn “indoors or in an enclosed space, where another person or persons who are not members of the individual’s household are present in the same space, irrespective of physical distance.” This order and others generally require masks to be worn in any business, as well. Businesses are responsible for enforcing these rules, and can deny service to customers who refuse to follow them.
Travel: As of March 1, 2021, the out-of-state travel restrictions have been lifted.
Business Rules: The current mitigation and enforcement order (effective Nov. 27, 2020) lays out a long list of requirements for any business that stays open for any in-person activities. Among other things, businesses must require temperature screenings for employees entering the office, limit in-person visitors and require masks as a condition of entry.
There are no rules specific to in-person activities at listed properties, but the general rules all still apply. For example, while there is no rule dictating exactly how many people can be in a property at once, the general rules would create practical limits for each property since you still need to maintain proper physical distancing at the site.
Keep in mind as well that sellers can always control access to their own properties. If sellers (in consultation with listing broker) establish rules around things like whether/how showings are scheduled, using health screenings or limits on how many people can be in the property, buyers (and their agents) need to honor those rules.
Continuing Education: With the license renewal extension in 2020, the current license cycle is about three months shorter than usual. Licensees can only count CE credits earned between Aug. 30, 2020 and May 31, 2022 for their next renewal. The State Real Estate Commission has obtained a waiver to allow live online CE courses to count for credit as if they were in-person courses. PAR is pushing to get that into the regulations on a permanent basis, but for now that waiver may last only so long as the emergency declaration is in place. Any members seeking to get their credits in this format should do it sooner rather than later, just in case the waiver can’t be made permanent right away.
Paycheck Protection Program Loans: In federal news, on Feb. 22 President Joe Biden announced a 14-day window (Feb. 24-March 10) in which the PPP will only be available to businesses of 20 employees or fewer. Among other things, this should include real estate agents who work as individual independent contractors. There will also be several changes to the program rules, including adjustments that could allow independent contractors to qualify for additional funds. More information can be found through NAR or the Small Business Administration.
Rental Assistance: The U.S. Treasury also updated guidance to state and local governments for emergency rental assistance on Feb. 22. The updated guidance includes a frequently asked questions document highlighting eligibility requirements, program uses and other key information. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services will be administering the program in the commonwealth for any county/city with a population below 200,000. Counties and cities with populations over 200,000 will receive funding directly from the U.S. Treasury. PA DHS will provide additional program information as it becomes available on their website.