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COVID FAQs, INCLUDING PHASE 3 GUIDANCE FOR REAL ESTATE 

UPDATED 06/24/20: Washington REALTORS® and the Northwest Multiple Listing Service have revised the FAQ guidance to include information for Phases 1, 1.5, 2, and 3 for real estate activities based on the latest information from the Governor's office. Please review the FAQS below or the DOWNLOADABLE FAQs PDF for clarification on which activities are permitted and the protocols required for permitted activities. If you have questions on this, or any other real estate legal question, email LegalHotline@warealtor.org. The Legal Hotline is a Washington REALTOR® member-only benefit. 

(Revised June 19, 2020) Effective June 1st, Governor Inslee issued the statewide “Safe Start Proclamation” (the “Proclamation”) to safely facilitate the phased re-opening of Washington’s businesses and recreation. The Proclamation takes effect as the prior Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order expires. The Proclamation continues a phased approach to re-open business in Washington.  There are different restrictions for real estate activities in counties that are in Phase 1, modified Phase 1 (or Phase 1.5), Phase 2, and Phase 3.  Guidance for Phase 4 has not yet been issued. Counties will be admitted into different phases by the Governor based on health data and other criteria. The list of counties moving to different phases is fluid and will continue to change. Some counties will be in Phase 1, other counties may be in Phase 1.5, some counties will be in Phase 2, select counties will be admitted to Phase 3, and eventually Phase 4. The latest information about county approvals is available on the Washington State Coronavirus Response website and a map is available here. Brokers must adhere to the “phase” protocols for the county where the property is located, regardless of the location of the broker’s office or home.

(Revised June 24, 2020) The protocols that must be followed for permitted in-person activities, during Phase 2, include: In-person activities must be by appointment only; Facial coverings are required to be worn at all times by real estate brokers, their clients, and industry partners (e.g. appraisers, inspectors, photographers, stagers, etc.).; No more than three (3) people, including the broker, may be at the property at any one time; Those three persons must strictly follow social distancing guidelines by remaining at least six feet apart at all times; and No real estate open houses or similar invitations to view a property without an appointment, shall be permitted. A broker may not leave a third party unattended in a property. Accordingly, brokers may only bring two other persons at a time into the property. REMINDER: Phase 1 and Phase 1.5 protocols prohibit more than two people, including the broker, at the property at one time.

(Revised June 24, 2020) See Table on Page 2 of FAQ Document

(Revised June 24, 2020) The modifications for Phase 2, assuming the required protocols are followed, include: Real estate firms may open their offices in a limited fashion (with additional restrictions for Phase 1.5); Commercial brokers can engage in the same in-person activities as residential brokers; Three persons (as opposed to two persons) are allowed on site for permitted in-person real estate activities for both residential and commercial brokerage (for both improved and unimproved property); and Sign installers may install real estate signs. For in-person activities in all phases, real estate brokers, their clients, and industry partners (e.g. appraisers, inspectors, photographers, stagers, etc.) must wear cloth face coverings. REMINDER: Phase 1 and Phase 1.5 protocols prohibit more than two people, including the broker, at the property at one time. Phase 1.5 protocols allow firms to open their offices in a limited fashion.

(New June 18, 2020) The modifications for counties in Phase 3 include: Open houses are permitted, provided that strict social distancing is followed, proper sanitation measures are taken, and no more than 50 persons are on site; and Permitted in-person activities must be by appointment only, but may include more than three persons, following strict social distancing guidelines by remaining at least six feet apart at all times.

(Revised June 19, 2020) Provided the above protocols are followed for any permitted in-person activity, residential and commercial real estate brokers may: Conduct listing presentations, take photos, and create virtual tours for new listings; Facilitate signing of contract documents; Preview and show listings by appointment only; and Facilitate inspections, appraisals, buyer “walk-throughs,” and other activities typically required to complete a real estate sale or lease. Real estate brokers may not: Conduct any business outside of their home (with the exception of the above activities); or Hold an open house, or facilitate similar invitations to view a property without an appointment. Note that any broker who violates the Governor’s Proclamation not only puts himself/herself and his/her family at great personal risk, but also puts the broker’s real estate firm and his/her clients at risk. Any violation is a gross misdemeanor and a violation of the real estate license law (RCW 18.85). REMINDER: Phase 1 and Phase 1.5 protocols prohibit in-person commercial brokerage services and in-person activities related to unimproved real property (residential or commercial).

(Revised June 19, 2020) Yes. Real estate firms can re-open offices located in Phase 1.5 and Phase 2 counties in a limited fashion, so long as the firm adheres to the many required protocols, including requirements for professional service offices. Note that there are additional restrictions for office re-openings in Phase 1.5 counties. Washington REALTORS and the Northwest MLS have developed resources that firms can use to safely re-open their offices in compliance with the required safety protocols.  Of course, firms are not required to re-open and some may choose to delay re-opening until a later date.  Firms may also choose to develop their own resources and plans to comply with the Governor’s requirements.  Note that future phases of the Governor’s plan (e.g. Phase 3) will likely have similar requirements for offices to open. The resources developed by Washington Realtors and Northwest MLS, available on their respective websites, include the following, all required by the Proclamation: COVID-19 Exposure Control, Mitigation, and Recovery Plan (required to be posted in the office) Entry door sign (required at the front door) Hygiene, sanitation, and related signs (required to be posted around the office) PowerPoint to assist with required training.

(Revised June 24, 2020) If a real estate firm chooses to re-open, designated brokers should carefully review the requirements to ensure compliance with all protocols. No office facilities may open for operations until they can meet and maintain all the requirements, including providing materials, schedules, and equipment required to comply. Some of the protocols are: Maintain minimum six-foot separation between all persons in all interactions at all times. Arrange furniture to encourage social distancing. Require clients/customers to make appointments for in-person services. Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and face masks to employees and independent contractors. Cloth facial coverings must be worn at all times in indoor spaces, and in outside public spaces when unable to physically distance from others. Ensure frequent and adequate hand washing with adequate maintenance of supplies. Use disposable gloves where applicable to prevent transmission on office supplies or other equipment that is shared. Establish a janitorial schedule that includes frequent cleaning and sanitizing with a particular emphasis on commonly touched surfaces. Screen individuals for signs/symptoms of COVID-19 before starting work. Make sure individuals who are sick stay home or immediately go home if they feel or appear sick. Cordon off any areas where an individual with probable or confirmed COVID-19 illness worked, touched surfaces, etc. until the area and equipment is cleaned and sanitized. Follow the cleaning guidelines set by the CDC to deep clean and sanitize. Occupancy of the office will be capped at 50% of maximum capacity or lower. For counties in Phase 1.5 – occupancy will be capped at 25% of maximum capacity and any indoor appointments will be limited to 30 minutes. Firms must post signage informing customers for the need to limit face to face interactions to 30 minutes or less. All on-site employees and independent contractors must be trained on the worksite’s policies, these requirements and all relevant sanitization and social distancing protocols. They must also be trained about COVID-19 and how to prevent its transmission. A site-specific COVID-19 monitor shall be designated at each location to monitor the health of individuals and enforce the COVID-19 job site safety plan. Develop and post at each location a comprehensive COVID-19 exposure control, mitigation and recovery plan. A copy of the plan must be available at the location and available for inspection by state and local authorities. COVID-19 safety information and requirements, such as CDC, DOH, OSHA posters and the employer-owner written policies for COVID-19, shall be visibly posted at each location. Authorized access to the business should primarily be through the front door. Face shields or sneeze guards should be placed throughout the worksite at all places of potential interaction between service providers and clients REMINDER: Phase 1 protocols limit office activities to “Basic Minimum Operations” only, including processing payroll and benefits, preserving equipment, ensuring security, and supporting brokers’ ability to work from home.

(Revised June 24, 2020) Yes. In-person previews or showings of properties are permitted if the required protocols are followed. Previews or showings must be by appointment, a total of no more than three people, including the broker, are permitted at the property at any one time, and those three people adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. Real estate brokers and their clients must wear cloth face coverings and should encourage clients and customers to do the same. Any previews or showings should be conducted as expeditiously as possible. Real estate brokers may not leave a third party unattended in a property. Accordingly, brokers may only bring two people at a time into the property. Sellers should vacate the property prior to any preview or showing appointment. In addition, listing brokers should stagger any preview or showing appointments to avoid any overlap. In lieu of physically showing the property, brokers and buyers can utilize virtual tours and videos that are included with the listing. Brokers should also consider virtual showings to further practice social distancing. REMINDER: Phase 1 and Phase 1.5  protocols prohibit more than two people, including the broker, at the property at one time.

(Revised April 1, 2020) Not at this time. To eliminate surface touches and the potential spread of germs, brokers do not currently need to leave a business card in listings when previewing or showing properties. Brokers must register with the keybox, which records the broker’s entry into the property. Listing brokers can share keybox activity with sellers as frequently as practical and should make sure to “assign” the keybox to the listing. In addition, all previews and showings must be conducted by appointment, which provides sellers with prior notice of all entries into the property.

(Revised June 24, 2020) Yes. If an inspection is required in a transaction, an inspection may be conducted, provided that it is by appointment, a total of no more than three people, including the broker, are at the property at any one time, and those three people adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. Real estate brokers, their clients, and inspectors must wear cloth face coverings. The inspection should be conducted as expeditiously as possible. A pre-inspection of a property prior to mutual acceptance of a purchase and sale agreement is permitted, provided that it is by appointment, a total of no more than three people, including the broker, are at the property at any one time, and those three people adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. Real estate brokers and inspectors must wear cloth face coverings and should encourage clients and customers to do the same. The pre-inspection should be conducted as expeditiously as possible. Because a broker may not leave a third party unattended in a property, the three people at the property for the inspection must include the broker. Sellers should vacate the property prior to the inspection. REMINDER: Phase 1 and Phase 1.5 protocols prohibit more than two people, including the broker, at the property at one time.

(Revised June 24, 2020) Yes. If an appraisal is required in a pending transaction, an appraisal may be conducted, provided that it is by appointment, a total of no more than three people, including the broker, are at the property at any one time, and those three people adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. Real estate brokers, their clients, and appraisers must wear cloth face coverings. The appraisal should be conducted as expeditiously as possible. Sellers should vacate the property prior to the appraisal. REMINDER: Phase 1 and Phase 1.5 protocols prohibit more than two people, including the broker, at the property at one time.

(Revised June 24, 2020) Yes. If keys to the property are not otherwise available to a buyer at closing, a broker in the transaction may make arrangements to retrieve and deliver the keys to the buyer, provided that it is done so by appointment, a total of no more than three people, including the broker, are at the property or at the location of the key delivery, and those people adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. Real estate brokers and their clients must wear cloth face coverings. REMINDER: Phase 1 and Phase 1.5 protocols prohibit more than two people, including the broker, at the property at one time.

(Revised June 24, 2020) Yes. Real estate brokers are permitted to input new listings into the MLS system. Real estate brokers may conduct listing presentations, take photos of the property, and create virtual tours for new listings, provided that those activities are done so by appointment, no more than three people, including the broker, are at the property at any one time, and those people adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. Real estate brokers and their clients must wear cloth face coverings. In addition, a seller may take pictures of his or her own property and send those photos to the listing broker. REMINDER: Phase 1 and Phase 1.5 protocols prohibit more than two people, including the broker, at the property at one time.

(Revised June 24, 2020) Yes. Professional photography for listings is permitted. Like all other in-person activities, photos and virtual tours must be by appointment, no more than three people, including the broker, are at property at any one time, and those people must adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. Real estate brokers, their clients and photographers must wear cloth face coverings. Sellers should vacate the property prior to any photography activities. Note that creating virtual tours is an effective way to allow buyers to view the property without the need for an in-person showing. REMINDER: Phase 1 and Phase 1.5 protocols prohibit more than two people, including the broker, at the property at one time.

(Revised June 24, 2020) Yes. Staging a home and removing staging items is permitted. Like all other in-person activities, staging activities must be by appointment, no more than three people, including the broker, are at the property at any one time, and those people must adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. Real estate brokers, their clients and stagers must wear cloth face coverings. Sellers should vacate the property prior to any staging activities. REMINDER: Phase 1 and Phase 1.5 protocols prohibit more than two people, including the broker, at the property at one time.

(Revised May 19, 2020) Yes. Moving companies are permitted to operate so long as all moving work is conducted with the fewest employees possible, following social distancing and sanitation measures.

(Revised June 24, 2020) Yes. Brokers may hire sign installers, provided that no more than three people are present at the sign installation and those people adhere to strict social distancing guidelines. Real estate brokers, their clients and sign installers must wear cloth face coverings. REMINDER: Phase 1 and Phase 1.5 protocols do not allow for third-party sign installers. Brokers listing property in Phase 1 and Phase 1.5 counties should install their own, temporary signs, with no more than two people at the property.

(Revised May 19, 2020) Construction practices are permitted and regulated under a separate order from the Governor. Brokers should advise the client to consult with any contractor hired to complete repairs to ensure that the contractor is in compliance with all protocols required of the contractor.

(Revised June 19, 2020) Yes. Residential and commercial property management is permitted, so long as all protocols required for real estate activities are followed. Note that throughout these FAQs, reference to “buyer” includes “tenant” and reference to “seller” includes “landlord”. REMINDER: Phase 1 and Phase 1.5 protocols do not allow commercial property management activities

(March 26, 2020) Yes. The “Financial Services Sector” has been deemed essential. This includes workers who are needed to process and maintain systems for processing financing transactions and services and insurance companies including mortgage lenders, escrow and title insurers. Because the Financial Services Sector is considered essential, real estate transactions that are under contract may be able to proceed to closing. Of course, there could be delays, which is why the parties should consider using the Force Majeure and Closing Addendum (Form 22FM).

(Revised June 05, 2020) As always, brokers have a duty to refer their clients to experts regarding matters in which the broker lacks expertise. Particularly in matters affected by COVID-19, the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order, and the Safe Start Proclamation, it is unlikely that brokers will have expertise and should advise their clients to seek the advice of an attorney.

(March 26, 2020)There are false rumors and misinformation being circulated. Many brokers have acted in reliance on bad information to their embarrassment and detriment. Washington REALTORS® and NWMLS communicate daily, and often more frequently to keep members informed of any developments affecting the industry. Both Washington REALTORS® website and NWMLS’s websites will continue to offer the latest and most accurate information possible.