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Can I practice real estate under Colorado’s stay-at-home order?
Yes, real estate has been classified as a “critical business” under Colorado’s stay-at-home order and, as such, REALTOR® and Industry Partner members can continue offering services to clients as long as they comply with social distancing requirements and safety guidelines mandated by local and state officials. However, in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 DMAR is recommending members stay at home and only work with buyers or sellers who truly need to complete a transaction right now. To help agents who are continuing to work during the COVID-19 crisis, DMAR release the following recommendations: (Please note, DMAR is not in a position to offer legal advice. These are a set of recommendations. If you have specific questions, please contact your managing broker).

  1. Make sure to study the CDC guidelines and advise your clients to abide by them. 
  2. Follow Colorado’s stay-at-home order. If you do not have to conduct business right now, then you should be staying home.
  3. Do not host open houses. REcolorado took a strong lead on this by temporarily disabling the ability to enter open houses in Matrix right now.
  4. Only work with clients who truly need to buy or sell right now. If your buyer or seller can wait, provide guidance and perhaps suggest temporarily pausing a listing. The risk of working with people who do not truly need to be buying or selling is not worth it.
  5. If you do have a client who you feel needs to buy/sell right now, look for alternative ways to show and view properties that do not put anyone’s health at risk. Utilize virtual tours and all the technology at your disposal so you can provide a service from the safety of your home. 
  6. Showings should only take place for buyers who need to buy right now and who have screened the properties before an in-person showing takes place.
  7. Do not solicit new clients or work. Use your best judgment here. 
  8. Use your expertise and experience in providing advice that will help your clients make good decisions.

Does the exemption apply to home inspectors, real estate photographers, contractors, etc.?
According to the Order (Section III.C.), a “Critical Business” is: “Any business, including any for-profit or non-profit, regardless of its corporate structure, engaged in any of the commercial, manufacturing, or service activities listed below, may continue to operate as normal.” The order goes on to describe, “Professional services, such as legal, title companies, or accounting services, real estate appraisals and transactions…” (Section III.C.7)

While “service activities” related to “real estate transactions” could certainly be interpreted to include some or all of the categories described above (home inspectors, photographers, contractors, etc.), CAR is not capable of providing a legal opinion to these industry professionals regarding their potential exemptions from the Executive Order. If one of these service providers is not comfortable analyzing the applicability of the Order to their respective business or profession, they will need to contact their own attorney for appropriate legal advice regarding the language of the Order.

Can we get a letter or card indicating that, as real estate brokers, we are exempt from the Order?
CAR does not intend to issue a “card” or “letter” to support REALTORS® categorization as a “critical business” under the Order. To the extent individual brokerage firms wish to create something for their brokers to proffer in the event they are stopped by law enforcement, that is exclusively within the purview of a brokerage firm. In place of a card or letter, a broker may be advised to carry a copy of the amended Public Health Order and refer any law enforcement officer who may inquire as to the movement of the broker to the applicable language referenced above (Section III.C.7).

Are real estate closings still happening in Colorado?
Yes. Title companies have been instituting social-distancing measures and work-at-home measures for staff who can do so. Many title companies are trying to take advantage of remote online notary services and some are offering drive-thru closings to home buyers.

Should open houses be canceled?
Yes. To assist in protecting both the homeowner and the public, DMAR is recommending that brokers suspend all open houses until Colorado is no longer under a stay-at-home order. If you have additional questions regarding open houses, please call CAR's Legal Hotline (303-790-7099), or view the March 26 Special Edition of Legal Bites, here.

Am I allowed to show properties to clients?
Showing homes is a great way to get to know your buyer's needs; however, in order to practice smart social distancing tactics, the showing broker and client should consider driving separately to any properties they are viewing. It may also be possible to schedule showings via DMAR recommends REALTORS® utilize tech-based and virtual options such as virtual tours or FaceTime where only the broker is inside the home. Please note, this must be done with the permission of the seller per the Colorado Real Estate Commission license laws. In addition, please utilize virtual tours and matter port options to view the home without actually entering the home. This will help to encourage the buyer to make decisions to visit the properties that they truly are interested in. If you have additional questions regarding showings, please call CAR's Legal Hotline (303-790-7099), or view the March 26 Special Edition of Legal Bites, here.

I typically drive my clients to showings. May I refuse to drive potential clients to see homes?
Yes. However, be sure that any change to your business practices is applied equally to all clients. You may refuse to drive clients who show signs of illness or reveal recent travel to areas of increased risk of coronavirus, or you may instead decide to stop driving clients in your car altogether, and simply arrange to meet clients at a property. If you do continue to drive clients in your car, it is a good idea to frequently clean and disinfect surfaces like door handles and seat belt latches, and to ask clients to use hand sanitizer when getting in and out of the car.

Can a broker refuse to hold an open house or show a property? 
Yes. Given the current environment surrounding COVID-19, it would be reasonable to refuse an open house or the showing of a property. The broker should discuss alternative ways to market the property other than holding the open house. 

Will inspections and closings be impacted and if so, what rights do my clients have? 
Each transaction is going to be different particularly as we are provided new information on the city, county, state and national levels; however, it is safe to say that yes, you will have some impact in your daily real estate business. As many businesses are transitioning to social distancing methods, there may be some nuances that will need to be accounted for such as limit people available for various business practices and a higher level of accountability towards signs of illness, which could cause additional delays for health reasons. Our lending and title partners are highly engaged as they understand how important their piece remains and the majority have implemented mobile closings and other metrics to keep our closings on time and provide new and innovative ways to meet all needs. It is more important than ever to be flexible and practice empathy in working together. Ultimately, we are all on the same page!

As far as the rights of our clients, our Colorado contract offers many opportunities for both the buyer and seller to evaluate the transaction as it progresses. As REALTORS®, it is imperative that we educate our clients on their rights within the contract and keep in mind that good faith is vitally important. As long as our contract guidelines are followed, your clients' rights are protected. Communication between the buyer and seller is key to protect everyone's interests and a successful real estate transaction.

May I ask clients or others I interact with in my real estate business if they have any respiratory illness? 
Yes. It is allowable to ask if the person has a cold, influenza or other contagious respiratory illness. Agents are not required to put themselves at risk; however, such questions must be directed at all clients equally. Otherwise, agents could face claims of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, primary language or race. 

May I ask clients or others I interact with in my real estate business if they have traveled recently, or have any signs of respiratory illness?
Yes, you may ask clients or others about their recent travel, particularly to areas identified as having an increased risk of coronavirus. To avoid potential fair housing issues, be sure to ask all clients the same screening questions based on current, factual information from public health authorities.

What unique issues does coronavirus present to the real estate industry?
When an infectious disease, such as coronavirus, is associated with a specific population or nationality, fear and anxiety may lead to social stigma and potential discrimination. REALTORS® must be mindful of their obligations under the Fair Housing Act and be sure not to discriminate against any particular segment of the population. While the coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, that does not provide a basis for treating Chinese persons or persons of Asian descent differently.

What precautions should brokers consider taking in their offices?
Brokers should use their best judgment when formulating a plan. In addition to performing regular environmental cleaning with special attention paid to frequently touched surfaces, brokers should implement a mandatory "stay-home" policy for any staff member or agent exhibiting any sign of illness. Brokers may want to consider imposing a mandatory or maximum flexibility remote work policy for employees and instructing agents to stay out of the office. In addition, in the wake of the CDC’s recent guidance recommending that in-person events consisting of 50 or more people be canceled or postponed, which was followed by President Trump’s announcement on March 16, 2020 recommending that individuals avoid groups of more than 10 people for the next 15 days, brokers should take measures to hold virtual meetings when possible, and potentially postpone or cancel in-person meetings or events to take to limit close contact between individuals.

What preventative measures may be taken to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus?

The CDC urges individuals to take these measures to protect themselves and others:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Practice social distancing by staying out of crowded places, avoiding group gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Stay home if you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath or any other cold or flu-like symptom.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve.

Can either party terminate the contract based on anything related to COVID-19, such as illness, exposure, quarantine, etc.?
We recommend you contact an attorney with any contractual or legal questions or the REALTORS® Legal Hotline provided by the Colorado Association of REALTORS®, which has temporarily extended its hours to accommodate an increase in calls. The REALTORS® Legal Hotline is currently available 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM through Friday, April 3, 2020.

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