COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Updates

GHAR Safety Protocols

GHAR and GHRI are implementing the following procedures to not only promote the safety of our members and students but also GHAR staff. Download the guidelines below.

Resources

Updates

May 20, 2020

On May 19, the Wolf administration issued new statewide real estate guidance that applies to all real estate transactions in Pennsylvania. Though it’s definitely not “business as usual” for REALTORS®, this new guidance opens up the industry with uniform rules across all markets and eliminates much of the confusing and contradictory information that had been put out in previous documents. Specifically, this completely eliminates the Department of State memo from April 28 and all the confusion it created.

May 19, 2020

Governor Wolf has issued an order that allows real estate to open on a statewide basis effective Tuesday, May 19 subject to certain guidelines.

PAR staff is reviewing the guidance documents and will be providing information about what you will need to do moving forward to protect yourself and your clients. Please stay tuned for additional information.

May 15, 2020

Exciting news! Cumberland and Perry are among the counties moving from Red to Yellow on May 22. Limited businesses can resume including real estate with several key restrictions.

What does this mean for real estate?

  1. Once a county enters the yellow phase, in-person services can be performed for any residential real estate sales transactions where the property is located in a yellow-phase county.
  2. Any of these permitted activities shall be arranged by appointment only.
  3. No more than two people can be on-site at any one time for these permitted activities.
  4. Social distancing practices are required, and providers must wear appropriate protective gear (masks, gloves and foot coverings) as noted in the DOS Memo.

Brokers should consult with brokerage counsel on how to keep their business in compliance with the governor’s order, and with questions about whether specific services are or are not in compliance with the order.

There will be more information to follow. For now, check out PAR’s resources on best practices and check with your broker.

May 11, 2020

With Regards to Entities Declaring Counter Orders to those Given by Gov. Wolf

As an association of REALTORS®, GHAR does not encourage members to pick and choose which laws and guidance documents to follow. Although we may disagree with the orders and guidance we have been provided by the Governor, we must remain professional, ethical and above board in our standards. Our members should not risk losing their license to defy an order.

We are hopeful that the actions being taken by our County Commissioners, District Attorneys and Sheriff’s Officers will help our case in opening real estate in Pennsylvania.

May 6, 2020

PAR Releases Best Practices Guidelines & 2 New Standard Forms

PAR has issued some new tools to assist you as Pennsylvania begins its phased reopening for counties in the yellow phase later this week.

PAR’s Suggested Best Practices was developed by a task force appointed by PAR President Bill Festa. PAR’s Suggested Best Practices provides the framework each broker will need to create a policy for their own offices.

The PAR Standard Forms Committee has also developed two new forms for use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Property Access Notice (Form COVID-PAN) provides some general warnings about COVID-19 and outlines several of the best practices regarding hygiene and access rules.

The COVID-19 Health Screening Acknowledgment (Form COVID-HSA) has five questions designed to identify some of the most common risk factors for contracting COVID-19. The form isn’t legally required, but PAR recommends that REALTORS® use the form for anyone who accesses a property.

April 21, 2020

Stay at Home order has been extended through May 8

Gov. Tom Wolf has extended the Stay at Home order until May 8, 2020.

The GHAR office will remain closed at least through May 8th. We will continue to monitor the situation and keep members informed of when our office will reopen.

All GHRI Continuing Education classes scheduled through May 8th have been rescheduled. New dates are posted on our website.

Independent Contractors can apply for Unemployment Compensation

As of April 18th, self-employed and independent contractors can now file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance through the PA Department of Labor & Industry.

If you experience a problem or have a question, please send it by email to UCHelp@Pa.Gov. This is the fastest way to receive a response, though it unfortunately may still take a few days due to the volume of people currently filing unemployment claims.PAR is persisting in reaching out to officials regarding obvious programming and other bugs.

At this time, PAR doesn’t have any additional information to answer specific questions based on individual applications. Please know that if you attempt to access the site and file that you may experience significant technical difficulties and incorrect system responses at this time.

Based on common questions PAR has been receiving, they have added some FAQs regarding unemployment compensation on their coronavirus resource page.

Senate Bill 841 has been signed into law

Senate Bill 841 passed unanimously in the Senate and House, was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf yesterday, becoming Act 15, and becomes effective immediately. The bill contains three elements relevant to real estate.

  • Property Tax Relief: Local government taxing districts (counties, cities, boroughs, townships and towns) have the option to extend the property tax discount payment period to as late as August 31, 2020 and/or waive any late payment penalties for any property tax paid in full by December 31, 2020.
  • Local Government Meetings: Any local governmental entity is authorized to “conduct hearings, meetings, proceedings or other business through the use of an authorized telecommunications device” until the expiration or termination of the current emergency declaration. A member of the body will be considered “present” for the purposes of a quorum if that individual is attending the meeting remotely.
  • Remote Notary: On March 25, the Department of State waived certain notarial rules to allow for remote notarization of real estate documents until the emergency declaration is lifted. This bill incorporates that waiver into law and extends the waiver until 60 days after the declaration is lifted.

Senate Bill 613 was vetoed

Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed Senate Bill 613. Senate Bill 613 would have allowed real estate services to be designated as a life-sustaining industry. However, the governor believes that opening these businesses too early will only increase the spread of COVID-19 and extend the length of the economic hardships created.

The governor has announced a measured and staggered reopen plan for Pennsylvania. It is still unsure at this time which phase will include the reopening of real estate services. GHAR will continue to monitor the situation and share updates with members.

April 7, 2020

GHRI CE Classes Postponed Through May 8

All GHRI Continuing Education classes scheduled through May 8, 2020 are being postponed. We will continue to monitor the situation and adjust GHRI’s class schedule accordingly. GHRI hopes to hold CE courses once we are permitted to do so per the governor through the end of August. Thank you for your cooperation.

GHAR Events Postponed

Due to the ever-evolving conditions, GHAR has postponed the below association events. This is in addition to the events previously canceled through April 30th. It is our hope that these postponed events will be rescheduled soon. We will continue to update members accordingly.

  • Commercial Council Breakfast on May 7th
  • Membership Appreciation Reception on May 21st
  • Municipal Officials Breakfast on June 10th

GHAR and GHRI are looking at new procedures that will be implemented for our events and classes once the governor’s order is uplifted and we are able to reopen our office and classrooms. Implementing these safety measures will not only promote the safety of our members and students but also GHAR staff.

March 30, 2020

Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday expanded his Stay at Home order to include Cumberland and Dauphin counties.

The order goes into effect at 8 p.m. on Monday, March 30, and will continue until April 30. Pennsylvania’s schools and non-life-sustaining businesses are to stay closed until further notice.

The order means residents are not to leave their homes except for tasks related to essential health and safety, picking up necessary supplies (groceries and prescriptions, for example), or if working at a life-sustaining business.

Real estate is classified as a “non-life-sustaining” activity under the governor’s original closure order. Any in-person, physical real estate service offerings are already prohibited under the initial closure order, and are still prohibited under the Stay at Home order.

The 26 counties now included in the Governor’s order include: Allegheny, Beaver, Berks, Bucks, Butler, Carbon, Centre, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Schuylkill, Washington, Wayne, Westmoreland and York counties.

GHRI classes postponed through April 30

Due to the extension of the federal stay at home order through April 30, 2020, all GHRI Continuing Education classes scheduled through April 30, 2020 are being postponed. We will continue to monitor the situation and adjust GHRI’s class schedule accordingly. It is our hope that the classes that are being postponed will be rescheduled soon. Thank you for your cooperation.

GHAR Events Canceled

Due to the extension of the federal stay at home order through April 30, GHAR has canceled the Management Issues event on April 20. This is in addition to the events previously canceled through April 10th in the original order.

March 27, 2020

PA License Renewal and CE Deadline Extended Until August 29, 2020

Good news! License renewal and continuing education requirements for real estate brokers and salespersons have been delayed 90 days. The bureau announced the delay today, March 27, 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Renewals and continuing education requirements will now be required by Saturday, Aug. 29, 2020.

GHRI Season Pass deadline will therefore be extended until April 30, 2020.

GHAR and GHRI will be changing their in person classes to reflect this deadline. Watch for more information.

The PALS portal for licensees to renew will open on Friday, March 27 at PALS.pa.gov.

Governor Authorizes Temporary Use of Remote Online Notarization

PAR announced that a temporary notarial rule suspension to allow for remote online notarization of documents in a limited category of real estate transactions was approved by Gov. Tom Wolf this week.

For residential real estate transactions, the new rule only applies to transactions that were already in process at the time of the governor’s declared state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 6.

March 23, 2020

COVID-19 update based on information available as of March 23, 2020 at 8:30 a.m.

The association is working to keep on top of the latest information on the recent developments on a state and national level as it addresses the COVID-19 crisis. What we know is there continues to be a lot of confusion.

The association has shared information published by the Governor’s office on what is considered “life sustaining” businesses and what is not. This list was updated Saturday and shared with members on social media.

As a result of concerns, the Wolf Administration announced a waiver process for any company that believes they should be considered a life-sustaining-business. Business owners can apply for a waiver at this email address: RA-dcexemption@pa.gov. Business owners can address questions about whether they need to close by emailing ra-dcedcs@pa.gov.

State level developments

We understand PAR and its coalition partners is in constant communications with the Governor’s office and the legislature.PAR has filed an appeal requesting the governor re-classify real estate as life-sustaining.

  • PAR is advocating for the legislation or an executive order allowing electronic notarization.
  • Legislation has been introduced to allow self-employed individuals to collect unemployment compensation during emergency situations.
  • PAR is urging legislators to consider legislation establishing a rental assistance fund, a mortgage assistance fund and grant extensions to building permits.=
  • PAR has been in contact with the Governor’s office, legislators, the State Real Estate Commission and Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs to request that the renewal deadline be extended, or in the alternative, that the continuing education deadline be extended if the renewal timeline is not changed.
  • PAR has been assured that the state is looking at several alternatives, and will report their response as soon as it is received.
  • PAR Legal Hotline continues to assist members on practice-related questions. Many of the inquiries have addressed closing and agreement of sale addendums.

I will be participating on a conference call with PAR this afternoon and will share any new information.

PAR has shared information through its daily JustListed articles and has a landing page specifically for COVID-19 resources. This landing page includes FAQs grouped by topics: PA Government Order, Transaction, Forms and Extension, Licensing and Education, and Business. This is a great resource for members to get answers to many of the questions they have and we highly recommend referring to that page. GHAR has shared this information on a variety of communication platforms. I encourage you to sign up for JustListed articles if you don’t already receive them.

Some information on social media indicates the Land Title Association received a waiver Sunday morning to continue to provide settlements for real estate transactions. According to a statement made by PLTA Sunday, March 22, 2020 at 8:00 p.m., they have sought clarification and a request for a Waiver from the Governor’s office of the effect of the Order on continued physical operations of real estate closings. PLTA has not yet received a response to this request. They have also retained outside counsel to determine whether title agencies could continue physical operations under the existing Order. PLTA has received the legal opinion from outside counsel, which states that the Order does not prohibit title agencies from continuing with limited and necessary physical operations. Please note that the legal opinion PLTA received is subject to revision in response to any subsequent changes to the law or to the facts forming the premise of counsel’s opinion such as our Waiver request being denied, or if the government issues any further rule or regulation expressly prohibiting physical operations by title agencies.

National level developments

NAR is aggressively working on the Hill on behalf of their members. NAR is committed to ensuring that lawmakers continue to take into consideration the real estate industry, including independent contractors and small business owners. Below is a compilation of the letters they have sent this past week as well as the work they are doing with state associations to classify real estate services as essential services in emergency declarations.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Congress passed a bill this week that created emergency paid sick leave, as well as paid family leave in the case of school closures, for working families impacted by COVID-19. Here is the impact on the real estate industry. NAR is working with industry partners and DOL to understand the calculation of employer thresholds for some of these paid leave benefits.

  • Relief for small business/ICs: NAR sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to include support for self-employed professionals and other small business owners as well as a follow-up letter on this issue as Congress considers additional relief packages. NAR also signed a coalition letter that would encourage Congress to provide readily accessible, unsecured credit to employers and self-employed individuals of all sizes to ensure they have the cash to pay their workers, rent, and other costs during this crisis.
  • Essential Real Estate Services: NAR is working with state associations, many of whom are reaching out to their Governors to request that certain real estate services be deemed “essential services” during emergency declarations. NAR is also working closely with ALTA and MBA whose members are also greatly impacted by county closures of recordation services.
  • Multi-family: NAR joined a coalition letter representing for-profit and non-profit owners, developers and others involved in the provision of affordable rental housing. It asks for direct rental assistance for families who have income loss due to COVID-19, it cautions against blanket eviction moratoriums-feels they should be targeted to situations related to COVID-19 and provide relief for property owners in the form of mortgage or other financial obligation forbearance
  • 1031: NAR sent a letter to Treasury to include deadline relief for 1031 like-kind exchanges 180-day completion deadlines. As you know there will be delays in settlements due to title companies and others closed during the outbreak. Also, they should extend the 45-day period for identifying possible properties as exchange candidates. Relief for this program has been provided in the past during other presidentially declared disasters.
  • SECURE Notarization Act: NAR is working with other trade associations and industry partners to support the “Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020” (SECURE Notarization Act). NAR sent this letter to lawmakers in support of the bill. This legislation would continue and expand access to remote online notary (RON). It would permit immediate nationwide use of RON, with minimum standards and provide certainty for the interstate recognition of RON. The SECURE Notarization Act builds on ongoing efforts of lawmakers to promote remote transaction options for consumers.
  • Opp Zones: NAR sent a letter to the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service to include deadline relief for the working capital safe harbor for Qualified Opportunity Funds with any forthcoming package of taxpayer relief measures.
  • Open House Guidance: NAR has issued guidance on open houses during the COVID-19 outbreak.

As we know the legislative process can be slow, but we are hopeful the General Assembly understands the urgency of the situation.

HUD, in consultation with the Trump Administration and the Coronavirus Task Force, has authorized the FHA to implement an immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages for the next 60 days.

The Pennsylvania personal income tax deadline has been extended to July 15. Pennsylvania and Federal filings are due the same day. Learn more about these tax filing extensions.

Businesses and non-profits who have suffered economic losses during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak can consider applying for low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Additional information is available by contacting SBA’s disaster assistance customer service center by calling 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

For Member Use Only: Daily Market Statistics from Bright MLS

Bright continues to post real-time market stats on their resource page for member use only. This includes daily on-market inventory, daily number of listings being removed from the market: Temp Off, Canceled, Withdrawn, and Daily Showing Activity.

Thank you and be safe.
Kathleen Ludwig
Chief Executive Officer

March 20, 2020

COVID-19 Update

Governor Wolf has now announced that all “non-life sustaining” businesses in Pennsylvania must close. Enforcement of this Order will commence this Saturday, March 21, 2020.

Governor Wolf’s office has published a list of the businesses that may not continue physical operations. Real Estate is listed under the heading of Financial Activities and the list states that lessors of real estate, offices of real estate agents and brokers, and activities related to real estate may not continue physical operations. Telecommuting is exempt.

We interpret this directive to prohibit all physical, in-person showings, in person appointments with clients, open houses etc Additionally, on March 18, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an Administrative Order directing that all Pennsylvania Courts are generally to be closed to the public. The Order specifically addresses Landlord/Tenant Issues on page 8 and orders that no officer, official or other person employed by the Pennsylvania Judiciary at any level shall effectuate an eviction, ejectment or other displacement from a residence for failure to make rent payments. Here is the full text of the Order.

All of the above will obviously have a significant impact on property management and real estate sales.

GHAR is working hand in hand with PAR on these issues. As this is a statewide issue, GHAR is relying on PAR for much of its information and resources.

PAR has published a COVID-19 Addendum to the Agreement of Sale, which is available on PAR’s website, and we encourage GHAR members to use this form for pending and new Agreements of Sale as appropriate.

PAR is also maintaining close contact with our local state legislators and other government officials.

PAR is working with a coalition to promote e-notary in PA.

PAR has filed a request with the Governor’s office to make real estate service as a life sustaining business.

PAR has a Coronavirus landing page with several resources. We encourage you to reference that page.

We understand there are waivers available but do not have enough information on them to share with you at this time.

As this situation evolves, we will continue to provide you with updates. In this challenging time it is incumbent upon us all to work together for the benefit of the whole. We shall overcome!

Due to the declaration made by Governor Wolf closing “non-life sustaining businesses” as of March 19th at 8 p.m., the GHAR office is closed.

However, GHAR staff will be working remotely. You can contact staff members via email.

March 17, 2020

The Impact of Government Closure of Non-Essential Government Operations on Real Estate Transactions

On March 16, 2020, the Cumberland County Recorder of Deeds Office announced that effective immediately their office will only be available for eRecording and Online searching. There will be no public access to their office until further notice. Further, effective 4:30 on Tuesday March 17, 2020, Dauphin County government offices will be closed to the public until further notice. In Perry County, beginning on March 17, 2020, the Perry County Courthouse will go to limited services. The closures and/or the limited services provided by these offices will have a significant impact on real estate transactions and our members. In addition to these closures, On March 16, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf “strongly urged non-essential businesses across the state to close for at least 14 days to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19”.

“Essential services and sectors” include but are not limited to:

  • food processing;
  • agriculture;
  • industrial manufacturing;
  • feed mills, construction;
  • trash collection;
  • grocery and household goods (including convenience stores);
  • home repair/hardware and auto repair;
  • pharmacy and other medical facilities;
  • biomedical and healthcare;
  • post offices and shipping outlets;
  • insurance;
  • banks;
  • gas stations;
  • laundromats;
  • veterinary clinics and pet stores;
  • warehousing, storage, and distribution;
  • public transportation; and
  • hotel and commercial lodging.

Although these businesses may remain open, the Wolf Administration continues to encourage them to employ social distancing practices, and encourages Pennsylvanians to be thoughtful in their visits.

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.

The impact is fluid and you will likely encounter a host of impediments in addition to difficulty recording deeds or verifying real estate taxes.

This release is not intended to cover the means by which exposure to the coronavirus is minimized. The National Association of Realtors® has published a list of suggestions and information regarding prophylactic measures.

All offices should have a policy in place to deal with the physical threat of exposure and the means by which the threat may be minimized.

How you guide your clients is a pressing matter. For those yet to enter into agreements of sale, the answer may be to first consult with their financial advisor and legal counsel. What is impossible to predict at present is whether the closure of non-essential government offices will preclude transactions from settling.

Lenders require that strict requirements be met before funding a transaction. The payment of past and current taxes is one such requirement, and if tax status cannot be verified due to closure of government offices, what will lenders do in response? Consulting your buyer’s title insurer and their lender will help determine whether a pending transaction can settle. If settlement of a transaction is impossible due to the cessation of business by governments and private entities, the impossibility of settlement may not be considered a breach of the agreement by either party. However, it is not the job of the real estate licensee to opine or state what the legal consequences of non-settlement may be. Rather, the correct advice to your clients is to seek legal counsel.

It is likely that your clients will pressure you to draft amendments to agreements of sale that defer settlement to a reasonable number of days beyond the opening of government and other offices. Our members should refrain from drafting such addenda as it likely constitutes the unauthorized practice of law. Again, advise your clients to consult with legal counsel.

These are certainly unique times and the repercussions from expansion of coronavirus has impacted all industries in a way not precedented. The Association will continue to update this release from time-to-time. Additionally, consult the websites for the state and national associations of Realtors® for additional information. Please visit parealtor.org/coronavirus for the most up to date information.

March 16, 2020

GHAR COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Updates & Cancellations

The health and safety of our members, staff and the community are our top priority.

With that in mind, and as a response to the ever evolving COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, GHAR will be following the guidance and recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and will be making the following changes to limit exposure to our members, staff and the community.

  • All Continuing Education classes scheduled between March 19, 2020 and April 10, 2020 are postponed.
  • Pre-licensing classes starting March 30, 2020 are postponed.
  • The Fair Housing Information Session scheduled April 1, 2020 is postponed.
  • The Commercial Council Breakfast scheduled April 7, 2020 is postponed.
  • New Member Orientation scheduled April 14, 2020 is canceled.
  • Foundation Bingo Night scheduled April 16, 2020 is postponed.
  • Committee meetings scheduled through the end of March will not be held here at GHAR. The Committee Chairs will decide whether the meeting with be held via conference call on the scheduled date or postponed.
  • The Association office is asking for no walk-in traffic effective immediately. Please call the office for any lockbox or key requests at (717) 364-3200.
  • Beginning March 19, 2020, we anticipate having one to two staff members here in the GHAR office during normal office hours to keep it functioning. Other staff members will be working remotely.
  • We understand that there are many members that hold a GHRI Season Pass. It is our hope that the classes that are being postponed will be rescheduled soon. We will continue to monitor the situation and continue to keep our members updated.
  • PAR has been in communication with the State Real Estate Commission about the license renewal and continuing education deadline.

Both GHAR and PAR will continue to monitor this rapidly evolving situation and update our members as new information becomes available.

Thank you for your cooperation!

Since 1916, the Greater Harrisburg Association of REALTORS® has withstood two world wars, the Depression, the Energy Crisis, recessions, the attacks of 9/11, the crash of 2008, and now we are mitigating through this new reality. We, as Americans, always need to remember in the resiliency of our great country. And, we as business owners and community leaders need to remember that past leaders of this country and our community have passed this torch to us. We stand ready to be a shining light in a time of uncertainty. We will be even stronger than before! That’s Who We R.