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Updated ESD Guidance

4/3/20 – NYSAR has been made aware that ESD has amended their guidance from April 1st to real estate licensees as to what functions are deemed to be essential.

Several news outlets including the Buffalo News and Real Deal are reporting that the ESD has amended its guidance of April 1st to restrict residential and commercial real estate showings to be “virtual” only.  NYSAR interprets “virtual” to mean no in-person contact when conducting a showing. Licensees should conduct the showing alone and use a tool such as video conferencing with the buyer or tenant.

The goal of the new standard is to further limit the possibility of one on one contact which NYSAR strongly supports.

NYSAR has been in contact with ESD and was informed that more comprehensive guidance will be forthcoming.

NYSAR recommends that members act in good faith to follow the “virtual” standard as reported until state officials offer more clarity.

The state approved activity for real estate licenses under the Executive Order is constantly evolving and NYSAR members should expect further clarification from state officials during the State of Emergency.

NYSAR will update you with any further state actions to amend its guidance.

NYSAR also wants to remind you that the ESD guidance extremely limits what real estate functions are deemed essential for the purpose of licensee and public safety.  We urge that you work from home to the greatest extent possible.

ESD deems specific real estate brokerage activities as essential

LIMITED OPERATIONS MAY RESUME IN COMPLIANCE WITH “NEW YORK STATE ON PAUSE”

4/1/20 – Today, the Empire State Development agency clarified that residential and commercial showings along with back office real estate work, appraisal services and home inspections are essential real estate functions effective immediately.  The official notice reads as follows.

Essential Businesses must continue to comply with the guidance and directives for maintaining a clean and safe work environment issued by the Department of Health and every business, even if essential, is strongly urged to maintain social distance to the extent possible.

The following functions of real estate and/or realtors (sic) are considered essential: residential home and commercial office showings; home inspections; and residential appraisers. (emphasis added)

Back-office real estate work is deemed essential, but please utilize telecommuting or work from home procedures to the maximum extent possible.

This designation is a recognition by the state that real estate licensees, real estate home inspectors and real estate appraisers provide a critical service to New York, which is vital to the wellbeing not only of New Yorkers but also for New York’s local and state economy. However, as you prepare to conduct those services for your clients that have been deemed essential, NYSAR reminds all its members that they must fully comply with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “New York State on PAUSE” directive, which says that “essential businesses must continue to comply with the guidance and directives for maintaining a clean and safe work environment issued by the Department of Health and every business, even if essential, is strongly urged to maintain social distance to the extent possible.”

“Our industry has been given a great responsibility in this time of crisis to help meet the needs of New York’s residential and commercial property buyers and owners, and the overall welfare of the local and state economy,” said NYSAR President Jennifer Stevenson. “But our priority must be to the safety of our customers, clients and indeed for ourselves, as we all continue to practice socially responsible distancing that is helping to flatten the curve during this national health crisis. Our mantra must be ‘safety first, work second.”

While our industry is one that relies on personal contact to best serve our clients, during this crisis, we will all need to adjust our approach. For example, you must limit person to person contact and observe the six-foot separation guidance.

NYSAR is working on further guidance for how we can continue to serve our communities while adhering to these critical important health directives. For information on best practices and complying with the essential activities outlined by ESD, please visit the NYSAR COVID-19 FAQ’s HERE.

Helpful information from the National Association of REALTORS® can also be found at this link.

 

Important Update from your 2020 NYSAR Leadership Team Regarding Real Estate Activities During the COVID-19 State of Emergency

As of 8:00 pm tonight, March 22, an Executive Order (EO) by Governor Andrew Cuomo effectively restricts real estate licensees from working outside of their homes.  Real estate brokerage and many other businesses were not designated as essential by the Governor in the EO.

It has been widely reported that New York State is the most COVID-19 impacted state in the nation.  Your NYSAR Leadership Team thanks you for strictly adhering to the difficult but necessary restrictions to our normal business activities.  We are practicing REALTORS®  just like you and completely understand the impact of this situation.

The EO means that until further notice real estate licensees are precluded from holding open houses, showings and in-person listing presentations for example.  You are not precluded from most work that you can accomplish from your home.

One typical activity for licensees that you cannot do, even from home, is cold calling when a state of emergency is in effect such as it is now.   Specifically, brokerages and their associated licensees are prohibited from making unsolicited telephone calls to consumers during the current State of Emergency until at least September 7, 2020.  Any brokerage or licensee making such calls should immediately cease all such activity.

The EO is unclear about activities related to real estate closings scheduled for March 23 and until further notice.  NYSAR is actively working with our industry partners and state officials to get guidance.  NYSAR will send updates as information becomes available.

We believe that if closings are deemed essential and able to proceed, licensees should not attend closings unless their presence is essential to the successful completion of the transaction.  One of the matters for which we are seeking clarification is a licensees ability to participate in a final walk through and any restrictions that might apply if the walk throughs are allowed.

NYSAR is working with your local board to keep them updated and to receive from them information on your local situation.  We have scheduled a weekly conference call for information exchange.

Please rest assured that NYSAR will continue to do everything it can to lessen the impact of the COVID-19 related business interruption.

NYSAR remains open for business although we are working remotely.  Our legal hotline remains fully operational as does our technology helpline.  NYSAR.com will continue to provide timely updates so please visit often.

Regards,

Jennifer Stevenson, 2020 NYSAR President
David Legaz, 2020 NYSAR President-elect
Jennifer Vucetic, 2020 NYSAR Secretary/Treasurer
Duncan MacKenzie, RCE, Chief Executive Officer

NYS prohibits real estate showings and open houses after Sunday

3/20/20 – Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the closure of all offices for non-essential businesses.  Previously, the governor limited staffing to 50%, followed by 75%, and now 100% workforce reduction in non-essential business offices. 

The governor specifically mentioned real estate activities in his press conference stating, “ I don’t know who you think you’re going to rent an apartment to now anyways if you kick someone out…by my mandate you couldn’t even have your real estate agent showing the apartment. Same with commercial tenants.”

As such, it is believed that all showings and open houses will be prohibited after Sunday evening.  Furthermore, all brokerage offices will also need to close Sunday evening.  Licensees are still able to work from home. 

NYSAR will release more information as it becomes available.

COVID-19 Addendum to the Residential Purchase Contract

As part of the Statewide Forms Library initiative, NYSAR has developed the “COVID-19 ADDENDUM TO RESIDENTIAL PURCHASE CONTRACT” (HERE).  The addendum is an agreement between the Seller and Purchaser to permit certain extensions and the rights of the parties to cancel the contract in the event COVID-19 related issues make it impossible or improbable to close.  In the addendum, Seller and Purchaser agree that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is impacting real estate transactions, transaction related service providers and consumers.  There is a possibility that transaction related service providers such as lenders, title/abstract companies, appraisers, home inspectors and attorneys may be providing limited or no services as a result of COVID-19 issues.  COVID-19 issues may include, but are not limited to: emergencies declared by the government, travel restrictions, mandatory closures or reduction of staff at transaction related service providers, quarantine, exposure to or contraction of COVID-19.

The text of the addendum is simple and straight-forward.  It can be used an addendum to the offer being made by the Purchaser or after the contract was signed by both parties.  If the contract has already been signed by both parties, the addendum must be provided to and approved by the attorneys for the Seller and Purchaser.

Number 2 is OPTIONAL and must be checked if the Seller and Purchaser agree that if Purchaser loses their income due to a COVID-19 issue, either party may cancel the contract.

In all scenarios, the Purchaser is given the deposit back.

Please be advised, you may edit this form for your own use so long as you keep the NYSAR branding.

Certain terms may need to be changed depending on how your contract is drafted.  The following terms may be different in your contract and can be changed:

  • Residential Purchase Contract
  • Seller
  • Purchaser
  • Deposit

I would like to thank the Virginia Association of Realtors for providing a copy of their form to other state and local Realtor board counsel.  The NYSAR form is similar with some minor changes.

If you have questions about the form or any other licensed activity, please contact the NYSAR Legal Hotline.  The Legal Hotline is available Monday-Friday from 9:00am-4:00pm at 518-436-9727.  The Legal Hotline will remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governor Cuomo Passes New Emergency Paid Leave for COVID-19

3/19/20 – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill Wednesday, adopting sick leave programs providing paid time off for employees impacted by COVID-19 . You can view the bill HERE.

 Emergency paid sick leave for an employee under a order of quarantine or isolation issued by the state of New York, the Department of Health, local board of health, or any government entity authorized to issue such an order due to COVID-19. These provisions are effective immediately. In this case, employers of 99 or less will be obligated to:

  • Notify employees of the availability of leave as described below;
  • To provide job protected leave as described below;
  • Provide documents required for that employee to apply for Paid Family Leave (PFL) and New York State Short Term Disability (DBL);
  • Employers of 100 or more only need to provide paid sick leave as required.

Provisions of the bill include:

  • Employers of 10 or fewer as of January 1, 2020 must provide unpaid sick time during an employee’s period of ordered quarantine or isolation, except those employers with net income of more than $1 million, which must provide five days of paid sick leave;
  • Employers of 11 to 99 must provide five days of paid sick leave;
  • Employers of 100 or more must provide up to fourteen days of paid sick leave;
  • Public employers must provide at least fourteen days of paid sick leave;
  • Benefits would not be available to employees deemed asymptomatic or not yet diagnosed with any medical condition and is physically able to work, through remote access or other means.

This leave is job protected but employees are not eligible to use this leave if the employee is returning from personal travel to one of the locations on the CDC travel advisory list. These employees would be able to use any available leave time or unpaid sick leave for the duration of the quarantine.

For employers of 99 employees or less, should an employee’s period of quarantine or isolation extend beyond available sick time, the employee would be able to apply for Paid Family Leave (PFL) and New York State Short Term Disability (DBL) concurrently. Benefit amounts would be a combination of payments from PFL and from DBL up to 100% of an employee’s average weekly wage for those employees earning up to $150,000 per year.

Additionally, there is no waiting period for the commencement of DBL payments under these circumstances. PFL benefits may also be used to care for a dependent minor child under such a mandatory quarantine of isolation order; this provision does not apply in cases where the child’s school is closed and requires daycare.

Legal Update on Open Houses, Showings Amid COVID-19

March 18, 2020 – Due to member concerns about the potential spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), NYSAR has been receiving a number of calls from members inquiring about whether a) NYSAR has the authority to ban open houses and/or in-person showings and b) what rights an owner may have in refusing or limiting showings.

NYSAR Does Not Have the Authority to Control Open Houses/Showings
NYSAR, the National Association of REALTORS®(NAR) and your local board of REALTORS® take the coronavirus (aka COVID-19) very seriously. NYSAR, for example, has postponed all education classes until the end of May, canceled our Lobby Day in Albany and closed our Albany offices with staff working remotely.

As I am sure you know, NYSAR has no authority to close or in any way regulate the practices of individual REALTOR® members. Our most effective role is to share all relevant government actions and health professional recommendations. NAR has issued best practices (see link at the end of this article) and we have shared that with our members previously. We recommend that you review this information and check for updates.

Our guidance to all members is to follow recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and the NYS Department of Health.

This is a constantly changing situation and we recommend that you stay regularly informed from the government authorities most knowledgeable about the disease and how you can protect yourself and your customers/clients and fellow REALTORS® from infection. NYSAR will share that information as well. NYSAR will also notify members about any emergency orders signed by the Governor impacting the practice of real estate.

Owners Can Refuse to Have Showings/Require Reasonable Health Safety Measures
As a result of the national, state and local States of Emergency, it is NYSAR’s opinion that a seller has the right to refuse all showings or require reasonable precautionary steps for all showings (mask, booties, washing/sanitizing hands, not touching anything, etc.). There are a few likely scenarios licensees may encounter that are discussed below.

  • If an owner is not permitting showings or accepting offers, the listing broker can take the property temporarily of the market as an uncooperative seller prevents the licensee from being able to market and sell/lease the property. The listing broker may be able to negotiate with the owner to extend the listing agreement the same amount of time the property was listed as temporarily off the market.
  • If the owner will not permit showings of the property but will still accept offers, it is possible to make contracts contingent on the purchaser viewing the property. The owner can also permit external showings.
  • If the owner refuses any showings and offers, the listing broker could sue under the obligations of the owner set forth in the listing agreement as the seller is being uncooperative. Such actions may be treated differently by courts in light of health and safety issue we are experiencing.

Considering the various States of Emergency that have been issued, NYSAR has no legal precedent to rely upon. As such, NYSAR is issuing this memo with the understanding that there is a delicate balance between the member/public safety and a licensee’s ability to provide services to their client or customer consistent with the provisions of Federal, State and Local laws. Licensees should make every effort to familiarize themselves with precautions and safety measures recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and various other governmental agencies.

For more information on how to protect yourself from the Coronavirus, please visit the CDC website.

For more information specific to REALTORS® and the Coronavirus, NAR has provided the following information to members: Coronavirus: A Guide for REALTORS®.

Questions relating to your licensed activities may be directed to NYSAR’s Legal Hotline. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the Legal Hotline will remain open to members throughout the State of Emergency. The Legal Hotline is available Monday-Friday from 9:00 am–4:00 pm at 518.436.9727.

NY State of Health Announces Special Enrollment for Uninsured New Yorkers

NY State of Health and New York State Department of Financial Services Announces Special Enrollment Period for Uninsured New Yorkers, as Novel Coronavirus Cases Climb

Note: This is a press release sent from the NY State of Health

March 18, 2020 – NY State of Health, together with the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), announced that New York will make a Special Enrollment Period available to New Yorkers during which eligible individuals will be able to enroll in insurance coverage through NY State of Health, New York’s official health plan Marketplace, and directly through insurers. This step is being taken in light of the COVID-19 public health emergency to further protect the public health of New Yorkers. NY State of Health, DFS, and New York State health insurers are taking this action due to the exceptional nature of the public health emergency posed by the COVID-19 so that individuals do not avoid seeking testing or medical care for fear of cost. The open enrollment period for coverage in 2020 had previously ended on February 7, 2020.

Individuals who enroll in Qualified Health Plans through NY State of Health or directly through insurers between now and April 15, 2020, will have coverage effective starting April 1, 2020. Individuals who are eligible for other NY State of Health programs – Medicaid, Essential Plan, and Child Health Plus – can enroll year-round. As always, consumers can apply for coverage through NY State of Health online at nystateofhealth.ny.gov, by phone at 855.355.5777, and working with enrollment assistors.

As directed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, all New York insurers will have waived cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing,

“With a pandemic spreading through the U.S., it’s important to ensure that healthcare is available to everyone who needs it,” said NY State of Health Executive Director, Donna Frescatore. “This special enrollment period will provide New Yorkers with another opportunity to sign up for high-quality, affordable health insurance.”

“Ensuring access to affordable and quality medical care for all New Yorkers is a top priority during this state of emergency,” said Superintendent of Financial Services Linda A. Lacewell. “Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, we have established a special enrollment period, providing uninsured New Yorkers an opportunity to select a New York State health insurance provider to access diagnostic testing and care they may need.”

For additional information on COVID-19
• The Department of Health provides public health information and guidance here: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus/, and has implemented a Novel Coronavirus Hotline at 1-888-364-3065.
• The Centers for Disease Control’s website offers up to date information at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
• Gov. Cuomo has issued a directive regarding access and cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing and treatment available at: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-new-directive-requiring-new-york-insurers-waive-cost-sharing.
• The Department of Financial Services has issued a circular letter on COVID-19 for health insurers here: https://www.dfs.ny.gov/industry_guidance/circular_letters/cl2020_03.

Additionally, the National Association of REALTORS® published, Coronavirus: A Guide for REALTORS®.

NYSAR to Postpone In-person Educational Programs

March 17, 2020 – The coronavirus state of emergency has caused NYSAR to postpone in-person classroom educational programs scheduled between now and May 26. We apologize for any inconvenience, but we continue to offer valuable member benefits as we all attempt to make the best of the current situation.

One such effort is a NYSAR member-only benefit where we will offer GRI classes via live webinar at a greatly reduced fee of $25 per class. Each 7.5-hour GRI course will be offered in 2.5-hour segments over three consecutive business days. Please watch your email inbox for upcoming webinars as they are scheduled.

Class size will be limited to 20 registrants on a first-come, first-served basis. Additional classes may be added based on member needs.

NYSAR also offers a wide variety of online courses which carry NY CE credit, including three free courses. To view online education options, click here.

Classes scheduled between now and May 26 will be rescheduled based upon the status of the coronavirus state of emergency. NYSAR staff will contact those registered for these classes with the new dates. Registrants who are unable to attend on the new dates should call NYSAR at 800-239-4432 x 219 to discuss transferring to another class or to request a refund.

To further assist licensees, the Department of State will be emailing licensees who cannot complete their continuing education by their license renewal date with instructions on applying for a waiver of up to six months.

Though NYSAR staff members are working remotely, we plan to handle all inquiries within the next business day, however, we ask that you please be patient with us as we try to accommodate your requests.

Lobby Day 2020 Cancelled

March 17, 2020 – Due to our dedication to the health and safety of our members, NYSAR has decided to cancel its annual Lobby Day, which was scheduled for Tuesday, May 5. As a result, all related RPAC activities that were scheduled to be held on Monday, May 4 have also been cancelled.

NYSAR continues to be engaged with state lawmakers on our legislative matters. If and when there is a need for member engagement with state lawmakers, we will not hesitate to utilize our outreach capabilities via email.

NYSAR Offices to Close

March 16, 2020 – Based on guidance from the New York State Department of Health and Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York State Association of REALTORS® is significantly reducing our staff presence at our Albany headquarters until further notice. The health and safety of our community remains our highest priority and we will continue to act with an abundance of caution as we navigate this rapidly evolving coronavirus situation.

All of our departments remain open for business, however, please understand that many employees will be working remotely and may be unable to respond to you as promptly as they normally would.

The best way to reach us is via email. Email addresses for the NYSAR staff can be found on NYSAR.com. If you are unsure of the correct person to contact, please email your request to [email protected] and it will be routed to the appropriate staff member. When emailing staff, please consider contacting only one person at a time to ensure the fastest response.

The Legal Hotline and Techline will remain open to assist members. You can access both member services by calling 518.436.9727. The Legal Hotline will continue to operate during their normal hours of Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Techline, which assists members with any computer, phone or tablet issues, is available Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can always be reached via email at [email protected].

We appreciate your patience and understanding during this time. We will update NYSAR members with any new developments.

NYSAR Educations Classes, Code of Ethics Training Postponed

March 13, 2020 – Due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, NYSAR has decided to postpone all education classes in March, April and May. We will update membership with any developments via email and on our social media platforms. Where desired/possible, we will work with the local boards to deliver classes on-line.

Additionally, The NYSAR Code of Ethics & Professional Standards Hearing Procedures Training has been postponed. We will update members via email and on our social media platforms if the training is rescheduled.