COVID-19 Frequently asked questions for REALTORS®

Some additions and edits made FriDay, September 4. See individual questions for date/time. 

These FAQs include updates from the Governor’s Proclamation impacting real estate, resources for brokers, and resources for transactional questions. 

Disclaimer:  The questions and answers posted below are intended to be a general educational tool for our members regarding frequently asked questions and answers to some legal questions that are of importance to REALTORS during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The responses to questions are general and should not be relied upon in any specific legal situation you or a client may be facing. Independent legal counsel should be obtained for such situations. Although we are monitoring the COVID-19 situation frequently, things change by the minute and we cannot guarantee that all information is the most updated information available related to that question.

Q. What is the latest on evictions?? Can a landlord evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent???

Added September 4, 2020.

The CDC eviction moratorium can found here:  https://www.nar.realtor/political-advocacy/coronavirus-housing-providers-faqs.
Any REALTORS® must tread very carefully with this new order. Contact your private legal counsel for questions about the impact of this new order.   

Q: IS THERE ANY HELP OUT THERE FOR A TENANT WHO CANNOT PAY RENT OR A HOMEOWNER WHO CANNOT MAY THEIR MORTGAGE DUE TO COVID-19?

Answer. Governor Reynolds has allocated federal CARES Act funds to assist Iowans who have been economically impacted by COVID-19 and may be facing housing hardships. This program will provide short-term relief to income-eligible renters and homeowners who are at risk of eviction or foreclosure. More information about this program, including eligibility requirements, can be found here https://www.iowafinance.com/covid-19-iowa-eviction-and-foreclosure-prevention-program/.

Question: Are real estate open houses allowable under the Governor’s Proclamation?

Answer: The Proclamation does not specifically address real estate showings or open houses. However, the Proclamation forbids all social, community, spiritual, religious, recreational, leisure, and sporting gatherings and events of more than 10 people. There certainly are questions about open houses and their advisability in light of the Governor’s Proclamations to combat the spread of COVID-19.  The National Association of REALTORS® has very helpful open house guidance available: https://www.nar.realtor/open-house-guidance-during-covid-19. Individual brokers remain responsible to make the decisions on how to handle open houses and showings during COVID-19. 

Question: What if somebody is sick, such as a home inspector, and they can’t inspect a home within the time frames of our purchase agreement? What if a party has COVID-19? What if we can’t close by the required date?

Answer: These types of questions are starting to develop and every situation requires a detailed analysis to figure out how to proceed. IAR has created a standard form for our members called the “Iowa REALTORS® COVID-19 Addendum/Amendment.” While the form was created to provide a tool to deal with the types of situations posed in this question, whether or not it should be used is a decision your client and their attorney should make. All members should discuss this form with their brokers before implementing it. Use of the form is not required by IAR. For more about this form, go to https://www.iowarealtors.com/news/new-covid-19-form.   

Question: Why isn’t IAR providing specific orders on how our industry should proceed with business during this time?

The Iowa Association of REALTORS® is a trade organization that represents approximately 7,500 REALTORS® across our State. As a trade organization, we do not get involved with the business practices of brokers and every broker remains responsible to determine how their business will respond to COVID-19. However, IAR continues to provide informative information and best practices that brokers and all REALTORS® may utilize to help in these difficult times. 

Question: I am a broker. What should I be doing to make sure we are prepared for any COVID-19 related issues, and how can I ensure I protect my business and the public?

While the Iowa Association of REALTORS® does not provide specific order for how you run your business, there are a variety of resources that are generally available relating to COVID-19 from the National Association of REALTORS®. You should visit https://www.nar.realtor/coronavirus. You will find all sorts of guidance for REALTORS® and open house guidance. Some of the guidance includes how to communicate with clients about COVID-19, practices for showings, precautions brokers should consider taking, and even a COVID-19 sample preparedness plan that NAR says you are free to adapt and implement in your workplace. 
   

Question: I have so many questions…

Added March 25, 10:45 a.m.

May I limit in-person showings to pre-qualified buyers? Are there any risks or potential liability to showing a property to a buyer virtually? Does the fact that someone had COVID-19 in the home create disclosure obligations? What if I manage property and tenants do not want prospective tenants to view the property out of COVID-19 concerns?

There are so many questions, and many are truly unprecedented. Given that some of these questions are matters of first impression, it can be tricky to give sure answers. It is important to talk with your broker and with private legal counsel to address some of these concerns. 

However, the National Association of REALTORS have published a great resource, called “Transaction Guidance During COVID-19.” https://www.nar.realtor/transaction-guidance-during-covid-19. Understand this is general guidance and is not legal advice. Take a look at this extensive guide which discusses a lot of questions that are developing in real estate markets across the Country. 

 

Question: The IAR COVID-19 Addendum has a section where it says 30 or _____ days, and 60 or _____ days. How should those be filled out?

Added March 25, 10:45 a.m.

Answer: While the parties remain fully responsible to ensure the form works specific to their transaction, the intent of the IAR form is that where the form says "30 or ___" days, then that means 30 days unless you fill in the blank with a different number of days. If you fill out the ____ with a different number - for example, 17 - by filling in 17 that is now the number of days since the parties determined the default 30 days was not the proper number. The same would go for the "60 or ____" day blank on the form.

Although you are not allowed to alter an IAR Standard form outside filling in the fillable blanks - it would be a permissible use of the form to cross out, for example, the number '30' if the parties in your transaction decide to fill the blank in “30 or ___” days with a different number. If the parties believe such a cross out helps make the form more clear, such action would be permissible under the IAR Copyright and the parties could simply initial by the cross out of that number if they so wish.  However, it is the opinion of IAR that such a cross out would not be required as the form makes it clear that if you decide to fill in that blank with a number besides the default, you are forgoing the default number of days and choosing a different amount of days. However, how the form is used in a specific transaction is up to your client and any advice of their attorneys.