The stay in place order enacted by Illinois Governor Pritzker that started on Saturday, March 21, 2020 has a provision that may allow Realtors to continue to conduct their business.
While the order encourages everyone to keep a safe social distance (6 feet) as much as possible, it does allow “essential businesses” to continue to operate. The order allows people to leave their homes to operate “Essential Businesses and Operations.”
The definition of “Essential Businesses and Operations” includes professional services and specifically lists “legal services, accounting services, insurance services, real estate services (including appraisal and title services);…”.
The words “real estate services” create an argument that Realtors are operating essential businesses and may be able to continue their activities.
The order requires essential businesses to take proactive measures to ensure compliance with Social Distancing Requirements, including where possible:
- Designate six-foot distances. Designing with signage, tape or by other means six-foot spacing for employees and customers in line to maintain appropriate distance;
- Hand sanitizer and sanitizing products. Having hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers;
- Separate operating hours for vulnerable populations. Implementing separate operating hours for elderly and vulnerable customers; and
- Online and remote access. Posting online whether a facility is open and how best to reach the facility and continue services by phone or remotely.
This requirement creates a challenge for activities such as showings and walk throughs.
The problem with the order is that it does not specify exactly what real estate services are permitted and which services are not permitted.
The local associations and MRED are offering ideas of how to navigate this minefield. Things like virtual showings and contingencies to allow for inspections once the stay at home order is lifted are some of these ideas.
When in doubt, you should always follow the direction of your managing broker. If you are a managing broker, it is always best to get legal advice specific to your situation.
Law firms are allowed to continue operations. Our firm is staying open. We are encouraging all client meetings to be conducted via telephone or video conference. We are also able to meet with clients by appointment. This means clients can meet with us to pre-sign their closing documents.
We are making every effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines.
Title companies are allowed to operate as well. All the major title companies are continuing to operate. They are recommending that only required people attend the closing. For most closings the only people that need to attend are financed buyers and their attorneys. Everyone else can pre-sign their documents and email them to the title company ahead of time.
Some title companies are offering curbside services where they will come to your car to give you your closing documents. Many title companies are also offering to overnight documents like settlement statements and closing checks.
For a cash deal, nobody needs to go to the closing. The whole thing can be done via email.
The only tricky part of closings is getting notarized documents pre-signed. Title companies are working on emergency measures to temporarily allow notarization via video conference but as of right now, conveyance documents, like deeds and mortgages, need to have signatures notarized in person.
Real estate attorneys should be able to help coordinate with clients to get their documents pre-signed correctly. If you have any deals without attorneys, have your client coordinate directly with the title company.
The one major thing to remember about the closing is to make sure the keys get there or get to the buyer once it is funded.
Hopefully this update is helpful. During these challenging times, we all need to work together to continue to serve our clients and help those in need.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be legal advice and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice it is always best to consult with a local attorney and make sure they understand all of the details of your specific situation.