In response to the growing concern regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the REALTORS® Association of Central Indiana is taking precautionary steps that include suspending non-essential travel for staff, canceling all association events through April 19, and postponing all classes indefinitely. These dates will be re-evaluated and extended, as needed. RACI staff is transitioning to working remotely.
The association is providing the following guidance to help REALTORS® — and consumers — respond to the coronavirus’s impact on the real estate industry. This information was compiled with the assistance of the Indiana Association of Realtors® and the National Association of REALTORS®. As the situation is rapidly changing, the information below will be updated, as needed.
Last week, we shared protective language to deal with future delays or possible contract cancellations related to COVID-19. We originally suggested you use this language in Further Conditions of the Purchase Agreement or in an Addendum/Amendment or other applicable legal form for transactions already in progress. You may still do that. But, we’re happy to report this language in now available in your zipForm® Plus account as an Addendum/Amendment (Form #61). We’ve also provided the form to DocuSign® and Dotloop. We hope that by keeping Indiana REALTORS® on the same page that we can bring certainty to local markets.
When an infectious disease, such as coronavirus, is associated with a specific population or nationality, fear and anxiety may lead to social stigma and potential discrimination. REALTORS® must be mindful of their obligations under the Fair Housing Act, and be sure not to discriminate against any particular segment of the population. While the coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, that does not provide a basis for treating Chinese persons or persons of Asian descent differently.
Number 14, section T of the order lists real estate services as essential. It includes appraisal and title services. We often say that real estate happens at the corner of life and change, so this order is good news. It means REALTORS® may continue to help their clients find the comfort of home following major events. However, we cannot stress enough that it is NOT business as usual. Realtors® should strongly consider offering services that can be done remotely without in-person, physical interaction.
You must follow the travel and social distancing requirements of the order. You can find those in number 16, section A, and number 17. Here are the main points:
- Keep six-foot distances
- Do not shake hands
- Wash hands with soap and water for a minimum 20 seconds and do so frequently
- Clean high-touch surfaces on a regular basis
- Have hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available
- Maintain separate operating hours for vulnerable populations
- Post your hours of operation and how to best reach you online
- Travel related to the provision of essential business services is allowed (Number 14 includes real estate as an essential service)
Public health advice is continuing to evolve. As of March 17, 2020, Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered recomendations to slow the spread of Covid-19 including delaying all “non-essential” public meetings and took further unprecedented actions on March 19, 2020 to protect and support Hoosiers during the COVID-19 outbreak by signing executive orders that extend the closure of schools, provide economic relief and protections for individuals and businesses, and expand unemployment insurance benefits for those impacted by job loss.
“Every day we learn more about how to tackle this monster. We are being thoughtful about how to approach every action we are taking in this national public health emergency and putting Hoosiers’ health and safety first,” said Gov. Holcomb.
Further guidance for professional service providers states:
“Other businesses, including but not limited to legal services, business and management consulting, professional services and insurance services are encouraged to have employees work remotely or telecommute. If that is not possible, they should employ social distancing best practices and be aware of the Trump Administration’s guidance to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people.”
Best practice would be to offer sellers other marketing opportunities and to offer buyers other means to view properties if available:
- A series of Instagram Stories to show the interior of a property you’re selling (remember these expire after 24 hours unless pinned to an Instagram profile).
- A Facebook Live video by the homeowner or agent.
- A Snapchat Story which encourages your followers to take part in a property Q&A.
- A YouTube video which explains the step-by-step process of buying a house.
- A 360 post to give your audience a full, 360-view of the property.
With this in mind, RACI suggests encouraging social distancing by offering sellers and buyers alternate means to market and view properties if they are reasonably available. Remember that many sellers may prefer to not have strangers in their home at the moment, and many buyers may be uncomfortable walking through properties – especially in an open house environment where others are present. Should you decide to offer any of these in-person services be sure to consult with your client, your managing broker, your county’s directives, and take all appropriate health and safety measures to reduce any liability risks to them and to you.
Yes, you may ask clients or others about their recent travel, particularly to areas identified as having an increased risk of coronavirus. To avoid potential fair housing issues, be sure to ask all clients the same screening questions based on current, factual information from public health authorities.
In Indiana, 876 IAC 8-2-4 requires broker attendance at closing. However, there is an exception that if your client does not attend, then the broker does not have to attend. Remote closings for your client, or requests not to appear in person, may lend itself to falling within this exception.
If you are not able to attend closing, communicate with your client, advise of the circumstances, and let them know that you will be available virtually, by phone or some other acceptable means of communication. Document this disclosure with your client.
Acting in good faith pursuant to emergency Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local, state, and national guidelines in these unusual circumstances should protect our members from any violation of this law. If the Indiana Real Estate Commission (IREC) provides some guidance in the future, we will keep you updated
Yes. In dealing with future delays or possible contract cancellations, we suggest the following language be used in the Further Conditions of the Purchase Agreement:
Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Agreement, the parties agree and acknowledge that in the event either the Buyer, Buyer’s lender, Seller, any of their respective service providers, government agency or any other agency becomes the subject of a voluntary or mandatory COVID-19 virus quarantine or closure prior to or at the time of Closing, or if Buyer or Seller is the party to another transaction that is delayed as a result of a voluntary or mandatory COVID-19 virus quarantine, that results in the parties inability to perform on the Closing Date, the closing may be automatically extended by either party for a period of up to ten (10) business days after such quarantine or closure order is lifted, up to a maximum delay of thirty (30) days unless the parties otherwise mutually agree to extend the performance date further. Upon the expiration of any automatic or agreed extension, either party may terminate this Agreement without any further liability to the other party, and the Earnest Money shall be immediately refunded to the Buyer.
This protective language can also be used for transactions already in place by adding it in an Amendment or other applicable legal form.
Yes. This return to Buyer of the Earnest Money will only apply if the contract fails to close due to COVID-19 related issues. The failure to close is not due to the fault of the buyer (or seller) as circumstances are outside of their control.
It is important to have statewide standardization and uniformity in these difficult times to help with the interpretation of said language and the comfort levels of our members in preparing for a COVID-19 related transactional delay. There is no perfect language as these are not perfect times. They all accomplish the same purpose.
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Yes, your clients may travel. That’s because of the phrase “access to” in number 16, section A –
Any travel that is related to the provision of, or access to, Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, Essential Businesses and Operations, or Minimum Basic Operations.
IAR has put together a document you can carry as you travel. This is not a legal document. We intend it as a communications piece to help ease concerns you may encounter.
The answer is no, your license renewal deadline remains June 30, 2020. That’s because the 60-day license extension announced by Governor Holcomb only applies to licenses that expire within the time period of his executive order (now – April 20, 2020).