Editor’s Note: This article was updated on November 17, 2020, with information and links regarding the latest mask order from the Department of Health.
This is a column about wearing masks in sellers’ homes.
PAR President Bill Festa put it out there nicely in August, and many of you (and your clients) are doing a good job of following the rules. But if the increased phone calls, emails and social media posts from members and consumers are any indication, some of you (and your clients) are definitely not. So, in the interests of clarity, today I’ll be a bit more direct:
Wear your mask.
It’s an Order
As of November 18, 2020, Pennsylvania is under the “Updated Order of the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Requiring Universal Face Coverings.” Among other provisions, it requires individuals to wear appropriate face coverings if they are “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 rule clearly applies to showings – that’s not really up for discussion. And while you can have plenty of philosophical or constitutional discussions about whether you think this order should exist, the reality is that it does exist, and no court has upheld any attempt to challenge this or prior mask orders (there is a federal constitutional case active in Pennsylvania, but it does not address this order). Wear your mask.
Show Some Respect
If you were a buyer’s agent at a showing would you (or your clients) take a dip in the pool? Grab a beer from the basement fridge? Track mud through the house?
Why? Not because there’s a law, regulation or government order about it, but simply because it is unprofessional and violates the trust that the seller has placed in you by allowing unsupervised access to their home. Whatever your (or your clients’) personal or political leanings on masks, respect the seller’s home and their trust that you’ll follow the rules. Wear your mask.
Many sellers have some sort of video monitoring capability in their homes today. Doorbells, security cameras, various smart devices – you name it. PAR has even updated several forms to let buyers know about this issue.
Sellers are using these devices to make sure buyers and buyer agents are wearing masks during showings. Or maybe they’re sitting in their car a couple of houses down to be sure masks are being worn as buyers walk in the door. How do we know this? Because most phone calls with sellers or listing agents these days start off with “I watched them take off their masks and….”
This is (generally) not illegal or unethical, and there isn’t going to be much sympathy for the buyer who tries to argue that s/he should have had the right to violate the mask order with complete privacy…while in the seller’s home and potentially putting them at risk. The odds of getting caught seem to go up by the day, so…wear your mask.
It Could Cost You
A real estate licensee who doesn’t follow the mask rules could be reported to the State Real Estate Commission (through PALS), or to the Department of Health. We know that both are actively investigating complaints. This could also be a potential ethics issue for Realtor® members – especially if the MLS showing instructions make it clear that the seller expects masks to be worn in the property.
I’d hope the conversation would never get this far, but if you (and your client) are not willing to wear masks because it’s a requirement or because it’s respectful to the seller, you should know that violating the mask rules could result in fines – potentially substantial ones – and could even affect your license.
So, I’ll give you some free legal advice: Wear your mask.