Covid-19: Local Impact
We are all in uncertain times and are looking for help and resources. NEAR has assembled some information to help you through this time. Should you have questions, please call us at 978-577-6138 or send an email.
The NEAR office is closed to the public until further notice. Staff continues to work remotely during our regular business hours and are ready to assist members over the phone and via email. Should you need products from our store, please call to arrange for payment and contactless pickup!
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
The anticipation is over for Realtors® across the Commonwealth. Today, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program was launched.
The PUA is a program open to the following individuals whose income has been impacted by COVID-19 and do not qualify for typical unemployment assistance, such as:
- Self-employed individuals, including gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors
- Those seeking part-time employment
- Claimants that have an insufficient work history to qualify for benefits
- And claimants that have been laid off from churches and religious institutions and are not eligible for benefits under state law
Want to Apply? Here's what you'll need:
- Your social security number
- If you are not a citizen of the United States, your A Number (USCIS Number)
- Your residential address
- Your mailing address (if different from residential address)
- Your telephone number
- Your email address
- Your birth date
- Your wage records for 2019, which includes:
- 1099 forms
- Pay stubs
- Bank statements
- The social security number(s) and date(s) of birth for your dependent child(ren)
- If you want to use direct deposit for payment, your bank account and routing numbers
- For more information on eligibility, view the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Guide.
The Department of Unemployment Assistance will review your application. The Department of Unemployment Assistance will review your Pandemic Unemployment Assistance application and confirm details, including whether you are unemployed for a COVID-19 related reason, proof of your total wages, and whether, other than your COVID-19 related reason, you are able and available to work.
Continue to certify for weekly benefits. You must certify for benefits every week that your work is impacted by COVID-19.
Respond promptly to all requests you receive from the Department of Unemployment Assistance. If there is a question of eligibility, you may receive a fact-finding questionnaire from the Department of Unemployment Assistance requesting information from you. You must respond to this questionnaire by the deadline specified. Failure to respond may result in a disqualification from receiving benefits.
The Department of Unemployment Assistance will send a decision. This decision tells you whether you’ve been approved for Pandemic Unemployment Benefits and how much you will potentially receive. If your application is denied, you can appeal the decision within 30 days.
Questions? Contact the Department of Unemployment Assistance Department of Unemployment Assistance, Call Center at (877) 626-6800 (Open 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday–Friday; 8 am – 12 pm Saturday. Multilingual call agents are available.
Real Estate License Renewals
On July 10, 2020 Governor Baker rescinded the Emergency Order that extended real estate licenses. As a result, all licenses that were scheduled to expire between March 10th and July 10th will now expire October 1st. Licenses expiring on or after July 11th will renew as scheduled.
Read the DPL Guidance here.
Corona Virus Guidance from the National Association of Realtors®
NAR has compiled information for members as we progress risks, showings, listings, open houses, and more. They are continually updating this information, so please be sure to check back often. | NAR Corona Virus Guide for Realtors®
Broker/Owners: NAR also has a guide for employers to help you navigate OSHA and ADA, as well as templates for disaster preparedness. | NAR Corona Virus Guide for Employers
Smoke Inspections (7/9/20)
Governor Baker has rescinded the Emergency Order that allows parties to agree to defer the smoke and carbon monoxide inspection until after closing.
The rescinding of the order does not invalidate any inspection deferral that was agreed to pursuant to the terms of the Order during the effective period of the Order. So if your parties agree to the deferral before the Order expires tomorrow, they will be able to close and then have 90 days from the end of the state of emergency to conduct the inspection.
The smoke and carbon monoxide emergency order is one of eight orders that are scheduled to be rescinded in the coming days. This marks a significant step forward in the reopening of the state.
Buyers that agreed to defer inspections now need to reach out to the local fire department to schedule the required inspection by Thursday, October 8, 2020.
Read more about the order here.
Registries of Deeds
Both our neighbors New Hampshire and Connecticut have temporarily approved remote notarizations. While work has been done to do the same in Massachusetts, no Executive Order has been drafted to allow it at this time. MAR has requested that the Governor issue an emergency Executive Order that would permit a form of e-notarization through video conferencing. At the national level, 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). This legislation would continue and expand access to remote online notary (RON) and would permit immediate nationwide use of RON, with minimum standards and provide certainty for the interstate recognition of RON.
If you are having issues with notarizations at closings, please contact the MAR Legal Team.
Evictions & Foreclosures
Governor Baker has extended the Emergency Eviction Moratorium Law Until October 17, 2020 using emergency powers granted by the COVID-19 emergency eviction moratorium law. Specifically, he extended the moratoriums on most residential and small business evictions and foreclosures as well as the provisions permitting mortgage forbearance and use of last month’s rent to cover current expenses law. The emergency law does not relieve tenants or homeowners of their obligation to pay rent or make mortgage payments. The existing moratorium had been set to expire on August 18 but permits the governor to extend the moratorium in increments of up to 90 days.
MAR has developed a COVID-19 Addendum that can be used to accompany real estate purchase contracts during this pandemic. This addendum addresses COVID-19-specific delays and allows for an extension to the time for performance. | Website Here
FAQs from the Massachusetts Association of Realtors®
Should we hold public open houses in Massachusetts?
MAR suggests that public open houses be limited and if they are to occur, brokerages should take proactive steps to comply with the Governor’s order and prohibit any more than 25 persons in a home or apartment at one time. Suggestions include posting a notice on the door stating that entrance will be limited and visitors should wait outside in a que that includes enough space for social distancing. As always, consult with the property owner first about their comfort level with allowing public open houses and consider cancelling open houses and providing private showings instead. Should you host open houses, be sure to comply with the 25-person maximum capacity, have hand sanitizer available for anyone entering the home and wipe down common surfaces frequently.
This guidance is consistent with Governor Baker’s ruling effective March 17th – April 5th on “ORDER PROHIBITING GATHERINGS OF MORE THAN 25 PEOPLE AND ON-PREMISES CONSUMPTION OF FOOD OR DRINK” which states “ Gatherings of over 25 people are prohibited throughout the Commonwealth. Gatherings subject to this Order include, without limitation, community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based events, sporting events with spectators, concerts, conventions, fundraisers, parades, fairs, festivals, and any similar event or activity that brings together 25 or more persons in a single room or single space at the same time in a venue such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theatre, gymnasium, fitness center, private club, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space.”
Additionally, the President of the United States is advising people not to gather in groups of more than 10.
What else should Realtors® be considering?
Be sure that any restrictions on showings or screening measures are applied equally to all prospective purchasers to avoid any Fair Housing violations.
What if a seller is not comfortable with people entering to view their home?
Sellers who are not comfortable with members of the public viewing their house may want to consider changing the listing status to “temporarily withdrawn” until the threat has subsided.
What if I want to use alternative marketing strategies?
If you are using strategies such as virtual tours or video tours, do your best to comply with the Massachusetts Mandatory Real Estate Licensee-Consumer Relationship Disclosure and provide the form as early as possible, even when there has not yet been an in-person meeting.
What should I do with my office staff?
MAR recommends having office staff work from home and advising agents to stay out of the office or other gathering points as much as possible. Online platforms can be used to host meetings, events, and classes remotely.
What impact will the State of Emergency have on my license?
Real Estate Licensing: The Division of Professional Licensure is currently open only for limited operations due to the state of emergency in response to COVID-19 and will not be providing any window service. Renewals should be processed online. See the attached announcement for more information.
Driver's Licensing: Effective this week, the RMV will implement a 60-day extension to the current expiration date for Class D, Class DMs, ID cards, and Learner’s Permits within the RMV system. All customers with expired/expiring credentials physically dated between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020, will continue to have an active status within the RMV system until sixty (60) days after the expiration date printed on their credential.
What impact will there be on financing?
Currently, NAR is hearing that lenders are overwhelmed from the volume of refinances due to rate declines. As a result they are rationing mortgage credit to higher credit borrowers and increase rates over what they should be (e.g. the spread to the 10-year Treasury is much wider than it normally is). The concern here is that higher rates than a week or two ago may scuttle some purchases and some lower credit borrowers in particular. The regulators have responded. The FHFA directed the GSEs to instruct their mortgage servicers to extend forbearance for 6 months and an additional 6 months if needed after which they can request extensions from the GSEs. The bank regulators (e.g. FDIC, OCC, and Fed) have given similar guidance to lenders and bank servicers. As the president declares different levels of disaster, additional actions by the GSEs, HUD and bank regulators will occur as they gain discretionary powers.
The administration and Congress are working together on a stimulus package aimed at expanding the medical response, student debt interest forbearance, potential broad mortgage forbearance/forgiveness, and longer-term economic stimulus. Congress has extended rather than going to recess and plans to work until they have a package.