Coronavirus Resources and Updates

Virginia REALTORS® is committed to keeping YOU in-the-know with updates and resources regarding the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on your business and industry. Keep checking back—this page will be updated regularly with new information.

Important Updates At a Glance

  • Evictions Ban Ruling Update. On August 27, 2021, the US Supreme Court overturned the new CDC targeted eviction moratorium. Learn more here. *For information on current protections in place for tenants who cannot pay their rent right now, see our Property Management FAQs below.
  • License Renewal Update. If it has been more than 12 months since you were supposed to renew your license prior to COVID-19 and you did not do so by July 31, 2021, when the temporary waiver expired, you will have to reapply for a license as a new applicant. If it has been less than 12 months since you were supposed to renew, you can still renew your license and pay a late fee.
  • Relief Program Updates. Governor Ralph Northam has announced that Virginia will be dedicating an additional $524 million in new federal funding to the Virginia Rent Relief Program (RRP). The state will make $160 million of the funding immediately available to the program and provide additional funding as the need arises. Additionally, the White House has announced the extension of COVID-19-related forbearance and foreclosure protections for homeowners. The actions announced today will:
    • Extend the foreclosure moratorium for homeowners through June 30, 2021;
    • Extend the mortgage payment forbearance enrollment window until June 30, 2021, for borrowers who wish to request forbearance;
    • Provide up to six months of additional mortgage payment forbearance, in three-month increments, for borrowers who entered forbearance on or before June 30, 2020.
  • Continuing mitigation measures. Governor Northam is extending Executive Order Seventy-Two, which outlines current mitigation measures. View the current information here

  • On December 21, Congress passed a new COVID-19 relief package, which also included an Omnibus spending bill for Fiscal Year 2021, and some tax extenders. Visit NAR’s resource page for more details on what’s included in this new package. Updated December 22, 2020.
  • Form 200 RR – COVID-19 Rules and Regs  (You must be logged in to access this PDF)

COVID-19 & Real Estate

 

Licensing & DPOR FAQs (Updated August 3, 2021)

Q. My license was due to expire, and I did not complete my renewal requirements by July 31, 2021. What now?

A. If it has been more than 12 months since you were supposed to renew your license prior to COVID-19 and you did not do so by July 31, 2021, when the temporary waiver expired, you will have to reapply for a license as a new applicant. If it has been less than 12 months since you were supposed to renew, you can still renew your license and pay a late fee.


Q. Is DPOR still open and conducting business?

A. Effective August 2, 2021, DPOR Offices at the Perimeter Center reopened. Visit DPOR’s website for updates regarding their operation.


Q. Where can I find a list of approved online-CE classes?

A. Approved online-CE classes can be found at the following links:

http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/uploadedFiles/MainSite/Content/Boards/Real_Estate/A490-02CE_CRS.pdf

Sales License CE – https://www.theceshop.com/online-education/virginia/real-estate/sales-license/continuing-education/courses.html

Broker License CE – https://www.theceshop.com/online-education/virginia/real-estate/broker-license/continuing-education/courses.html

Government Response and Executive Order FAQs (Updated August 3, 2021)
  • The Virginia REALTORS® Government Relations Team has worked with Governor Northam and his team to make sure you are able to continue to work, stressing that we would ensure safe business practices. As COVID-19 numbers have begun to rise, Virginia REALTORS® reminds you to practice business safely by following the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for protecting workers and limiting the spread of the virus. Additionally, we ask that you follow the Virginia Department of Health’s safety recommendations specific to real estate professionals. Updated December 4, 2020.
  • The VA General Assembly and Governor Approve New COVID-19 Legislation. On November 9, 2020, the General Assembly concluded the 2020 Special Session. Learn more here.
  • Through a new state program, Virginia Housing (formerly the Virginia Housing Development Authority) is administering relief for renters experiencing financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP), eligible landlords can now apply on behalf of their tenants to receive financial assistance for past-due rental payments dating back to April 1, 2020. Funding for RMRP is through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on Nov. 15, 2020. For more information and to get started with the application process, visit VirginiaHousing.com/RMRP.
  • On August 3, 2021, the CDC and President Biden filed an order to temporarily halt residential evictions in counties with high or substantial transmission through October 3, 2021. If a county drops below high or substantial transmission rates for 14 consecutive days, the ban will stop applying unless or until that threshold is crossed again. We anticipate legal challenges to the order similar to those that were made to the prior CDC order, which was ruled that the CDC did not have the authority to issue such a ban.
  • On July 27, 2020, Governor Northam announced $70 million for small businesses and nonprofit organizations whose normal operations were disrupted by COVID-19. The funding will be made available through Rebuild VA, a new economic recovery fund, and grants of up to $10,000 will be awarded. Read more details on eligibility and applying here.

Q: Are you allowed to hold open houses?

A: Open houses have never been explicitly prohibited in Virginia; however, Virginia REALTORS® strongly advises members against holding them due to the risk and difficulty in complying with all of the requirements of the Executive Orders. Before holding or attending an open house, you should discuss the potential risks and benefits with your clients. If your clients wish for you to hold an open house and you are willing to do so, you must:

  • Ensure that all individuals entering the open house wear appropriate face coverings;
  • Provide clear communication and signage for physical distancing in areas where individuals may congregate, especially at entrances;
  • Limit the occupancy of physical spaces to ensure that adequate physical distancing may be maintained;
  • Practice routine cleaning and disinfecting of high-contact areas and hard surfaces at least every two hours;
  • Provide a place for individuals to wash hands with soap and water, or provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol; and
  • Post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19, or known exposure to a COVID-19 case in the prior 14 days, is permitted to enter.

Q: Are the requirements that individuals wear face coverings still in place?

A: No, however, the CDC is recommending that all individuals in areas with high or substantial transmission areas wear face coverings, even indoors.


Q: Do you have to provide clients with a face covering?

A: No, there is nothing that requires a business to provide face coverings to clients or customers. If you do provide face coverings, they should be single use to avoid the risk of improper sanitization.


Q: Do buyers need to wear a face covering while viewing a property?

A: Yes, buyers should treat listed properties as public spaces and wear face coverings.

Property Management FAQs (Updated August 27, 2021)

Q: What protections are in place for tenants who cannot pay their rent right now in Virginia?

A: During the 2021 Special Session, the General Assembly passed language that continues to restrict evictions through June 30, 2022.

In Virginia, landlords cannot terminate a lease or take action to obtain possession for nonpayment of rent from an eligible tenant except in certain circumstances. A “eligible tenant” is one that has:

  • Qualified for unemployment benefits,
  • Experienced a reduction in household income,
  • Incurred significant costs, or
  • Experienced other financial hardship during or due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Landlords may terminate a lease or pursue possession against an eligible tenant for nonpayment of rent only if:

  • The landlord provides written notice that:
    • informs the tenant of the Virginia Rent Relief Program and
    • provides the website address (https://www.dhcd.virginia.gov/rmrp) and statewide telephone number (211) for the program
    • includes information on how to reach 2-1-1- Virginia to determine whether there are any other available federal, state, and local rent relief programs.
    • informs the tenant that the owner or property manager will apply for rental assistance on the tenant’s behalf within 14 days unless the tenant pays in full, enters a payment plan, or informs the landlord they have already applied for rental assistance.
  • The landlord applies for rental assistance on behalf of the tenant within 14 days of sending the notice unless the tenant pays in full, enters into a payment plan, or notifies the landlord that they have applied for rental assistance.
  • The landlord fully cooperates with the tenant’s application if the tenant has applied for rent relief.
  • Written approval from the rental assistance program is not received within 45 days of the complete application for an initial application or 14 days of a subsequent application.
  • The tenant does not:
    • pay in full,
    • enter into a payment plan,
    • refuses to apply, or
    • refuses to cooperate with the landlord who has applied.
  • The tenant is ineligible for any rent relief programs.
  • There are no more funds available in rent relief programs.

Note that the Virginia REALTORS® Notice of Late Rent templates (available for download in the next section) contain all necessary language.


Additional Requirements for Late Notices

Virginia law now provides additional requirements for late rent notices. We have drafted two separate notices, one for landlords who own four or fewer properties and one for landlords who own five or more properties. You can access them here Updated February 11, 2021.:

Property Managers & Their Clients (podcast)

Staff Counsel Jon Haley talks about the impacts on property managers & their clients as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in our latest Caveat REALTOR® podcast – click here to listen.


Flash Survey

Find out how COVID-19 is impacting property managers and landlords in the Commonwealth by looking at the results from this week’s COVID-19 Flash Survey.

https://www.virginiarealtors.org/2020/04/20/results-from-flash-survey-5-covid-19s-impact-on-property-managers/


Latest Downloads


Q. Do you have to use the Rent Alteration Request and/or the Rent Alteration Amendment?

A. No, both of these forms are optional and are intended to be used when the landlord agrees to some amendment to the monthly rental payments during the pandemic.


Q. How does the Rent Alteration Amendment work?

A. The Rent Alteration Amendment is an amendment to the lease that offers a lot of options. In the first numbered paragraph, the landlord and tenant agree to the period during which the monthly rent will be altered. This includes a specific start and end date. The second paragraph contains two options: a flat-out reduction in monthly rent to a specific amount with the difference being waived; and an option to alter the payments in a number of ways including the frequency of payment, the payment amount, and how any missed rent payments will be made up.

The form also requires the tenant to provide ongoing documentation of their need for adjusted rent and an agreement that if the tenant fails to provide the documentation, or the documentation no longer shows a need for adjusted rent, then normal rent payments will resume at the next monthly rent due date.

The form also includes a statement that any modified rent is accepted with reservation, allowing the landlord to seek back rent in the event that the tenant fails to pay or comply with the agreement.

The form also includes space for additional terms to allow you to customize the agreement to the needs of your tenant and landlord. This field could be used to include what documentation the tenant must provide, allow for a change in frequency beyond weekly or monthly, or other terms agreed to.


Q. What documentation should the tenant provide to document their need?

A. The documentation will vary based on the particular tenant’s circumstances. If the tenant works at a retail business impacted by the Executive Order closures, a letter from their manager or supervisor may suffice; however, if the tenant is an independent contractor or gig worker, documentation showing reduced commissions may be more appropriate. In general, the documentation provided in the initial request should be sufficient to show an ongoing need.


What if the landlord wants to waive rent entirely for some or all of the pandemic?

That should be documented in an amendment to the lease. You can use the Rent Alteration Amendment and put $0 in the adjusted monthly rent field. Alternatively, if the rent is waived for some, but not all, of the pandemic, the period that the rent is waived could be noted in the other terms of the Rent Alteration Amendment form.


Q. Are you, your firm, and/or your agents potentially liable if a tenant contracts COVID-19 after you have conducted some activity in the home (such as conducting a virtual showing or allowing a contractor in to make a repair)?

A. First, we believe that the potential for you to be held liable in such a circumstance is very low. However, to be safe, we have drafted the following “hold harmless” language that you can include in the Additional Terms section of your brokerage agreements.

  • In no event shall Broker, brokerage firm, or any agents or employees of the brokerage firm, be responsible for or liable for any claims arising out of the COVID-19 Pandemic; entry into the property by Invited Parties, any person(s) accompanying an Invited Party, or any agent or third party entering the property on an Invited Party’s behalf; or the availability of the property for showing or inspection. Tenant understands the risks associated with entering properties and/or allowing others to enter their property during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Tenant releases, waives, discharges, and forever holds Broker, the brokerage firm, and its agents and employees, individually and collectively, harmless from and against claims, damages, losses, and suits arising from or in any way connected with the Pandemic. Invited Parties includes, but Is not limited to, potential buyers or tenants, agents, inspectors, contractors, appraisers, or other third-parties related to a real estate transaction.

Q. Do you have to use the hold harmless language? If so, do you need to go back and add this language into brokerage agreements that you’ve already entered into?

A. No, this language is not required. The risk of your liability in this circumstance is very low even without this additional language, but you can add it if it makes you feel safer. As such, you do not need to go back and add this language into previously ratified brokerage agreements or leases.


My tenant did not pay the rent. Can I still file an unlawful detainer? UPDATED 6/25/2020

Beginning on June 29, 2020, you may file an unlawful detainer for nonpayment of rent.


I already filed an unlawful detainer against my tenant for violating the lease and causing a threat to health and safety for other tenants. What happens now? UPDATED 6/25/20

As of June 22, 2020 courts may resume hearing unlawful detainer actions and issuing writs of eviction for matters unrelated to the failure to pay rent. You should check with the clerk of court in your jurisdiction to ascertain the status of your case. If you have questions about whether your court is open, scheduled hearing dates, or any new rules for attending hearings in person, you should contact your General District court.


Q. My tenant’s lease is up, and he was supposed to move out this week or in the coming weeks. They are refusing to leave. What do I do? UPDATED 6/25/2020

A. Property managers should communicate with their owners and consider how you will handle tenant requests. The terms of your lease with the tenant still govern everyone’s rights, obligations, and potential remedies during this national emergency. A tenant who does not vacate may be subject to legal action, but whether a particular landlord is willing to pursue those remedies is ultimately up to that landlord. Beginning on June 22, 2020, you may file an unlawful detainer for reasons unrelated to the nonpayment of rent, such as a tenant becoming a holdover tenant. Beginning on June 29, 2020, you may file an unlawful detainer for nonpayment of rent. Property managers should continue to communicate with their owners and consider how you will handle tenant requests.


Q. Can we conduct a video tour for the walkthrough at the end of the lease?

A. Yes, conducting a video-conference type walkthrough would allow for a tenant who is concerned about potential exposure to COVID-19. If the tenant will be participating in the walkthrough remotely, we suggest you get something in writing, confirming that they prefer to be remote for the walkthrough.


Q. What happens in the case where an order of possession was entered by a court on an unlawful detainer, the 10-day appeal period expired with no appeal being perfected, and a writ of eviction was issued but has not been executed by the Sheriff, prior to the order declaring judicial emergency on March 16th?

A. Please have an honest conversation with your owners about the current situation and with your owners and tenants to identify pragmatic solutions other than eviction for the immediate future as we all deal with the impact of COVID-19. Under Virginia law, an order of possession entered by a judge is good for 6 months from the date of entry by a judge. A writ of eviction is good for 30 days but if the landlord allows a writ of eviction to expire without execution by the Sheriff, the landlord may request additional writs of eviction so long as one is requested prior to the expiration of 6 months from the date of entry by the judge. Allowing an existing writ of eviction to expire does not prevent the landlord from evicting the tenant, in the future, if satisfactory financial arrangements and payments are not made by the tenant with the landlord.


Q. What happens when my tenant cannot afford to keep utilities on pursuant to their obligation under the lease because of this crisis? 

A. Many utility services are offering some sort of limited protection against terminating services during this public health crisis. In addition, the State Corporation Commission issued an order on Monday, March 16, 2020, prohibiting any utility cut-offs for at least 60 days. If tenants have questions on this issue, they should contact their relevant utility provider.


Q. I manage a building with 15 units and have had tenants coming to me asking if anyone in the building has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Can I answer this question? If I know of a verified diagnosis do I have to answer?

A. No. At this time, an active COVID-19 diagnosis is not a required disclosure. A material adverse fact must pertain to the physical condition of the property, not the tenant residing there. There are also privacy issues that would likely prohibit such disclosure.


Q. I am trying to schedule the showing of a rental property, but the current tenant refuses to allow it based on health concerns. What do we do?

A. During this time, it is advisable to look at other options. Perhaps a video walk-through of the property could be used to show to prospective tenants to decrease the amount of people walking through the occupied unit.

The terms of the landlord-tenant relationship, including access to the rental unit, are established through the lease and the provisions in the VRLTA. Most leases have a provision that allows the landlord to bring prospective tenants through the property under specific conditions. It is ultimately up to the landlord discretion to determine whether to push to enforce the provisions or to take another approach. Should the landlord decide to move ahead, it is important to take all appropriate health and safety measures to protect both the current and prospective tenants. Click here to see the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).


Q. My current tenant is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and/or has been diagnosed. What responsibilities does the tenant have? What responsibilities does the landlord and/or the property manager have?

A. A sick tenant is responsible for taking all advised health and safety measures to maintain the property – including cleaning, sanitizing and the like – as the tenant would do with any similar illness. Though the condition of a property based on the current tenant’s illness may not be the landlord’s responsibility, the landlord may be responsible for cleaning and sanitizing the property for a future tenant. Again, click here see the recommendations from the CDC.


Q. We are closing down our property management office to the public for the next four weeks and would like to require all tenants to pay their rent online from now on. Can we do that?

A. If your lease or rules and regulations already allow this, then yes. Under the VRLTA, you can adopt a policy or rules and regulations to implement such a procedure. You should be aware that there will be tenants who do not have internet access (and can no longer go to a public place to obtain it) or the ability to do online banking. Accommodations should be made for these tenants such as a dropbox in a central location.


Q. As a property manager, what is my responsibility to clean a unit before a new tenant moves in? Can the tenant require that I clean to a certain standard? What if I know the previous tenant was infected with COVID-19?

A. While there may be emergency standards established by a state government agency, none exists at the present time.  It is important to use an accepted industry standard. Click here to see the recommendations from the CDC.


Q. I have repairs and routine maintenance that need to be done on my rental dwelling units, but my vendors are backing out and tenants are nervous about letting people into their apartments. What do I do?

A. This is a good place to be proactive. If you do not have your own maintenance/repair professionals on staff, reach out to your third-party vendors now and see what their company policies are with respect to whether they will continue to work in the coming weeks. Line up a back-up plan as needed. Communicate with your vendors about what their health and safety protocols are so that if the tenant asks, you can provide that information. If you have a tenant that is refusing vendor access, work with the tenant as much as possible to postpone routine scheduled maintenance or stabilize the repair as needed.


Q. How do I apply for back-rent or additional rental assistance?

A. The program is being administered through the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Housing providers can access the application and find out more information on the DHCD RRP website or the Housing Virginia Landlord Website.

Financial Assistance, Loans & Federal Stimulus FAQs

Government Assistance FAQs (Updated January 4, 2021)

The federal government is making assistance available to individual workers, families, and businesses to help mitigate the economic and financial impacts of COVID-19. A new federal stimulus bill was passed in December 2020, re-authorizing and extending some of these benefits. We will update this page with more information as it becomes available. Additional information is available from the National Association of REALTORS®.


Q. What financial assistance is available to me?

A. Individual Stimulus Payments. The federal government is providing a one-time payment of $600 for individuals earning up to $75,000 and $1,200 for married couples filing jointly earning up to $150,000. The payment declines for higher-income individuals and families, phasing out for individuals with incomes of $87,000 or higher and married couples with incomes of $174,000 or higher. The direct payments also include $600 per eligible child dependent with no cap on the number of children a household can claim. More information is available on the IRS website.

Extended Unemployment Benefits. The new federal stimulus bill extends unemployment benefits to unemployed workers, including those who are self-employed, independent contractors, or freelancers. Benefits are available through March 14, 2021. More information about applying for these benefits in Virginia is available on the Virginia Employment Commission website.


Q. What assistance is available to small business owners or sole proprietors?

A. The original CARES Act created two programs through the Small Business Administration: the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). The new federal stimulus bill appropriates $284.45 billion for PPP loans and $20 billion for EIDL grants.

Businesses eligible for this round of PPP loans must meet the following criteria:

  • The business was operating before February 2020
  • The business has fewer than 300 employees
  • The business must have seen at least a 25% reduction in revenue in at least one quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago.

Businesses that received a PPP loan earlier this year are eligible to apply for a second loan. Loans are capped at $2 million for this round ($10 million total for both rounds of the program).

If your business receives a loan of $150,000 or less, you can submit a one-page forgiveness form to certify that you have complied with the PPP rules.

Business owners should be able to begin applying for PPP loans in mid-January. Other details about the PPP are available from NAR.

The EIDL program is a low-interest loan program administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The program has been extended through December 2021, assuming sufficient funds are available. Details on applying for an EIDL are available on the SBA website.


Q. Can I apply for both a PPP loan and an EIDL grant?

A. You can apply for funding from both sources. The federal stimulus bill passed in December repealed the requirement that borrowers who receive both an EIDL advance grant and a PPP loan must deduct the forgiven amount of the EIDL grant from the forgivable amount of their PPP loan.


Q. Can I apply for both unemployment benefits and an SBA loan?

A. According to the Virginia Employment Commission, anyone has the right to file a claim for unemployment compensation. Whether they can draw depends on the individual circumstances and the type of business entity.


Q. As a business owner, are there benefits I need to offer to my employees as a result of Federal legislation?

A. On March 18, 2020, the U.S. Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which required certain employers to provide employer-paid sick time and expanded the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for employees who were impacted by COVID-19 or caring for family members who were impacted by COVID-19. The FFCRA expired on December 31, 2020 was not extended in the new stimulus bill.


Q. Is my firm covered by the FFCRA (a.k.a. Families First)?

A. The FFCRA covers all private employers with fewer than 500 employees; however, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for an exemption from the requirement to provide paid leave due to school closings or unavailability of childcare if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business. More information can be found on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website and the National Association of REALTORS®website.


Q. What do I need to know if I own a multifamily rental property?

A. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) issued guidance allowing lenders to grant forbearance to borrowers with multifamily properties financed by Fannie Mae for up to three months. As part of the forbearance plan, borrowers must agree to suspend evictions of tenants who are facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 crisis. The multifamily forbearance program has been extended through March 31, 2021. More details about the program are available on Fannie Mae’s Multifamily website.


Q. What if I am having trouble making my own mortgage payment?

A. With the passage of the original CARES Act in March, homeowners can ask for forbearance from their mortgage servicer and suspend monthly mortgage payments for up to 12 months.

Most borrowers have through January 2021 to apply for a forbearance. The deadline for borrowers with a mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration (an FHA loan) can apply for forbearance through the end of February 2021.

Borrowers should contact their lender directly for more information on forbearance options.


Q. What if you have clients that participate in USDA-backed single-family and multi-family programs?

A. If so, please check out this comprehensive document from the USDA Rural Development office on the immediate actions they have taken to help rural residents, businesses, and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Sales Tips & Suggestions

Social Media Advertising

Staff Counsel Jon Haley discusses social media advertising during the COVID-19 pandemic in our latest Caveat REALTOR® podcast – click here to listen.


Sales Tips & Suggestions

  • Talk to your clients about what their concerns are. Are they part of the vulnerable population? Do they have someone who is vulnerable living with them or that they interact with on a regular basis (and therefore they want to limit their exposure)? What are their priorities? Can/will they delay settlement? What accommodations can/should you make to help them with the transaction?
    • If the seller is concerned about exposure or is self-quarantining because of exposure or illness, discuss possible alternatives to an open house, such as you hosting online sessions where you walk through the house using video and answering questions for potential buyers. Alternatively, look at your MLS rules and consider changing the status of the listing to allow showings by appointment only or even to stop showings until a later date. Talk to the seller about whether to accept back up offers in the event that the buyer cannot perform due to complications related to the pandemic.
    • If a buyer is concerned about exposure, talk to them about the possibilities of you using Facetime or another video-telephone option where you can “show” them the property while they stay home. Talk to the buyer about what is and isn’t required by the contract, especially related to access to the property and the property condition at settlement. If your buyer wants or expects a deeper cleaning, that is something that likely needs to be specified in the contract itself.
    • Talk to all clients about what could happen if the other side cannot move at Settlement, or if there are larger industry impacts (courts closing, delays with lenders or other providers due to diminished staff). Consider an addendum to the contract that delays settlement and/or essentially “pauses” the contract (and all contingency deadlines) for a number of days (watch for language provided by Virginia REALTORS in the coming days).
  • Figure out whether your buyer is local or not. If not, where are they coming from? (States with large numbers of cases/countries with travel restrictions)
    • This information could give the seller some indication of whether settlement is more or less likely to be delayed. Understand that the buyer’s current location isn’t necessarily a guarantee of whether they will need a delay, but if you have a buyer coming from a country currently under quarantine or with restricted travel, make sure to start talking to the buyer agent and the seller early on about whether there will be an impact and what this could mean for your transaction. For example, if the buyer is purchasing the property as an investment and does not plan to live there, it’s possible they will be able to proceed as planned; on the other hand, if the buyer is moving here for a job, which has been delayed due to travel restrictions, it’s possible the buyer might have to delay settlement and could have issues related to their loan if the job offer is rescinded.
  • Talk to your settlement provider – are they able to do remote settlements? What plans do they have in place to protect your clients?
    • You want to have early and frequent communications with your settlement agent to know what their plans are and what, if any, hiccups they may see coming down the road. If the settlement provider is not able to handle remote settlements, talk to the clients about the possibility of moving to another settlement provider (depending on where you are in the transaction this could have a bigger impact)
    • Talk to your settlement provider about what may happen in the event that the courts close. Some courts in Virginia have closed while others are simply closed to the public.
  • One thing to keep in mind – communication with your clients and agents on the other side of the transaction can do a lot to help manage expectations and keep transactions moving smoothly.

 

Unemployment Assistance

The new federal stimulus bill that was passed by Congress and that was signed into law by the President on December 27, 2020, provides assistance to unemployed workers, including those who are self-employed, independent contractors, or freelancers.

The original CARES Act authorized three new programs to provide aid to those who have lost their jobs. The new bill passed in December extends all three of these programs to March 14, 2021. Some other details about the programs have also been modified. The three sources of unemployment assistance are:

  1. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) which provides unemployment benefits to individuals who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits, such as self-employed individuals and independent contractors.
  2. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation provides additional benefits to unemployed workers who have previously collected federal or state unemployment benefits but exhausted those benefits. The additional benefits are available for a maximum of 24 weeks (extended from 13 weeks in the original CARES Act).
  3. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) is the additional payment—above and beyond the normal unemployment benefits—available to those receiving regular unemployment insurance benefits or PUA benefits. Eligible individuals can receive an additional $300 per week for up to 10 weeks. (The original CARES Act had authorized an additional $600 per week; those additional benefits ended over the summer.)

The Virginia Employment Commission (www.vec.virginia.gov) administers these unemployment assistance programs. More information about applying for any of these unemployment benefit programs in Virginia is available here: https://www.vec.virginia.gov/covid19. Please note that your first step for qualifying for benefits as a self-employed worker or independent contractor is to apply for regular benefits first. You will then be able to submit an application of PUA benefits.

Housing Market Impacts

Despite a slowdown in sales activity for two months during the spring, the housing market has been on fire for most of 2020. There were concerns early on that the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession would negatively impact the housing market. Instead, the residential real estate industry has been a bright spot in the economy. Low mortgage rates and strong demand have fueled sales activity and price growth. The ability of Virginia REALTORS® to adopt innovative virtual strategies has also been critical to the rebound of our housing market.

For more information on housing market conditions in Virginia, visit our Research & Statistics webpage.

Mortgage Rates

There was some volatility in the mortgage market earlier this spring as the market reacted to quick actions by the Federal Reserve. However, since then, mortgage rates have been at historically low levels. There are several reasons why rates have remained so low throughout 2020:

  • Low federal funds rate. As a result of the sharp economic downturn, the Federal Reserve has cut short-term interest rates to zero or near zero to help keep the economy afloat. The Federal Reserve does not set mortgage rates directly; however, the federal funds rate can move the 10-year treasury rate which does impact mortgage rates.
  • Fed purchase of mortgage-backed securities. The Federal Reserve has purchased more than $1 trillion dollars of mortgage-backed securities (MBSs), which are bundles of mortgages sold to investors. This action means that the risks to lenders are lowered, leading to more available credit and lower rates.
  • Other factors. Mortgage rates are driven by a range of other factors not related to the actions of the Federal Reserve, including the inventory of available homes for sale and capacity constraints on the part of lenders. The mortgage rate available to a particular applicant depends on his or her credit history, down payment type, loan type, loan term, and mortgage points.

Mortgage rates likely will remain in historically low territory throughout much of 2021.

Broker-Specific FAQs

Q. Are you, your firm, and/or your agents potentially liable if someone contracts COVID-19 after you have conducted some activity in the home (such as showing it to a prospective buyer or attending a home inspection)?

A. First, we believe that the potential for you to be held liable in such a circumstance is very low. However, to be safe, we have drafted the following “hold harmless” language that you can include in the Additional Terms section of your brokerage agreements.

  • In no event shall Broker, brokerage firm, or any agents or employees of the brokerage firm, be responsible for or liable for any claims arising out of the COVID-19 Pandemic; entry into the property by Invited Parties, any person(s) accompanying an Invited Party, or any agent or third party entering the property on an Invited Party’s behalf; or the availability of the property for showing or inspection. Client understands the risks associated with entering properties and/or allowing others to enter their property during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Client releases, waives, discharges, and forever holds Broker, the brokerage firm, and its agents and employees, individually and collectively, harmless from and against claims, damages, losses, and suits arising from or in any way connected with the Pandemic. Invited Parties includes, but Is not limited to, potential buyers or tenants, agents, inspectors, contractors, appraisers, or other third-parties related to a real estate transaction.
    Added 4/1/20

Q. Are you, your firm, and/or your agents potentially liable if a tenant contracts COVID-19 after you have conducted some activity in the home (such as conducting a virtual showing or allowing a contractor in to make a repair)?

A. First, we believe that the potential for you to be held liable in such a circumstance is very low. However, to be safe, we have drafted the following “hold harmless” language that you can include in the Additional Terms section of your brokerage agreements.

  • In no event shall Broker, brokerage firm, or any agents or employees of the brokerage firm, be responsible for or liable for any claims arising out of the COVID-19 Pandemic; entry into the property by Invited Parties, any person(s) accompanying an Invited Party, or any agent or third party entering the property on an Invited Party’s behalf; or the availability of the property for showing or inspection. Tenant understands the risks associated with entering properties and/or allowing others to enter their property during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Tenant releases, waives, discharges, and forever holds Broker, the brokerage firm, and its agents and employees, individually and collectively, harmless from and against claims, damages, losses, and suits arising from or in any way connected with the Pandemic. Invited Parties includes, but Is not limited to, potential buyers or tenants, agents, inspectors, contractors, appraisers, or other third-parties related to a real estate transaction.
    Added 4/1/20

Q. Do you have to use the hold harmless language? If so, do you need to go back and add this language into brokerage agreements that you’ve already entered into?

A. No, this language is not required. The risk of your liability in this circumstance is very low even without this additional language, but you can add it if it makes you feel safer. As such, you do not need to go back and add this language into previously ratified brokerage agreements or leases. Added 4/1/20


Q. Is DPOR waiving the requirement that funds must be deposited into an escrow account within 5 business banking days?

A. At this time, there have been no changes to the laws and regulations related to depositing escrow funds. Because the regulations require money to be deposited within 5 business banking days of receipt unless otherwise agreed to by the purchaser and seller, we suggest you make sure that your contract (or COVID-19 Addendum) addresses this. For example, the Virginia REALTORS® Contract says that the real estate licensee will deposit the EMD within 5 business banking days of receipt. This means that if you never receive the check (because the buyer isn’t able to send it or your office is closed), you are OK. Additionally, if you use the Virginia REALTORS® COVID-19 Addendum, it allows the parties to press “pause” and extend ALL deadlines until the COVID-19 condition is over. This means that if you do have the check and suddenly are not able to deposit the check into your escrow account, your client can send notice to the other side to pause all deadlines and give you more time to get the EMD deposited. If you are able to deposit the check, using mobile banking or another method, you should certainly do so as it will make keeping track of everything and getting your business up and running that much smoother once things go back to normal.
If you are using a different contract or COVID-19 addendum, you will need to look at the language in your contract and addendum to see if it addresses EMD or not. Reach out to your forms provider to see if they have additional language you can use in the event that the contract or addendum do not address this issue. ADDED 3/24/20 

Q. Where can I find information on employees teleworking?

A. The Department of Labor has guidance on wage and pay requirements for hourly and full-time employees that come to your office or work from home here: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/flsa/pandemicADDED 3/20/20


Q. Where can I find NAR’s guidance documents along with hot topics about how the industry is changing due to the coronavirus (COVID-19)?

A. NAR has a coronavirus landing page. Click here to view.


Q. As an employer, where can I find more resources and guidance for employers?

A. NAR has released Coronavirus Resources and Guidance for Employers.


Q. Where can I find CDC guidance for businesses and employers?

A. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided guidance here.


Q. What is congress doing to assist employers with employees that need to take leave because of the coronavirus?

A. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which goes into effect on April 2nd, provides guidance and assistance for emergency family and medical leave, emergency paid sick leave, and emergency unemployment.


Q. Will Virginia REALTORS® release forms language to assist with new and pending transactions?

A. Yes, Virginia REALTORS® has created a new COVID-19 Addendum (Form 600 COVID) that can be used in existing and new transactions.


Q. Do you have suggestions for budget-friendly and easy to use video conferencing options?

A. There are many options for online video conferencing. We suggest you take a look at ZoomGotomeeting, or FreeConference.


Q. If I have IT issues and can’t get a tech to come out, are there other alternatives?

A. Yes. Virginia REALTORS® offers a free Tech Helpline service offering support for hardware, software, networking, and digital devices. Call 1-800-276-4216.

Sales FAQs

Q. Are you, your firm, and/or your agents potentially liable if someone contracts COVID-19 after you have conducted some activity in the home (such as showing it to a prospective buyer or attending a home inspection)?

A. First, we believe that the potential for you to be held liable in such a circumstance is very low. However, to be safe, we have drafted the following “hold harmless” language that you can include in the Additional Terms section of your brokerage agreements.

  • In no event shall Broker, brokerage firm, or any agents or employees of the brokerage firm, be responsible for or liable for any claims arising out of the COVID-19 Pandemic; entry into the property by Invited Parties, any person(s) accompanying an Invited Party, or any agent or third party entering the property on an Invited Party’s behalf; or the availability of the property for showing or inspection. Client understands the risks associated with entering properties and/or allowing others to enter their property during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Client releases, waives, discharges, and forever holds Broker, the brokerage firm, and its agents and employees, individually and collectively, harmless from and against claims, damages, losses, and suits arising from or in any way connected with the Pandemic. Invited Parties includes, but Is not limited to, potential buyers or tenants, agents, inspectors, contractors, appraisers, or other third-parties related to a real estate transaction. Added 4/1/20

Q. Do you have to use the hold harmless language? If so, do you need to go back and add this language into brokerage agreements that you’ve already entered into?

A. No, this language is not required. The risk of your liability in this circumstance is very low even without this additional language, but you can add it if it makes you feel safer. As such, you do not need to go back and add this language into previously ratified brokerage agreements or leases. Added 4/1/20


Q. What should we do in the event that the courthouse closes between the date that the parties sign and the settlement agent records the title?

A. Speak to your settlement agent in advance of settlement date. There are a lot of factors that will come into play. If a courthouse is actually closed, no official business may be conducted, which includes recording land records. On the other hand, if the courthouse is just closed to the public, the clerk may receive land records electronically (or by other method) and record those records. This means that you will need to talk to your settlement agent to find out if the courthouse is closed or closed to the public, whether the courthouse is setup to receive electronic records, and whether the settlement agent is setup to send electronic land records.

Regardless of whether the courthouse is currently open, you may want to start having conversations with your clients about what happens if the courthouse does close between when they sign on the dotted line and the settlement agent goes to record. If the parties both intend for the buyer to take possession on the date they both sign on the dotted line, especially if this occurs on a Friday, they should consider entering into a pre-settlement occupancy agreement that is contingent on recordation being delayed due to a COVID-19 related event.


Q. What can I do to protect myself if a buyer or tenant wants to write an offer on a property without viewing it in person?

A. Virginia REALTORS® offers a “Sight Unseen” form that can be used if you have a buyer or tenant who wishes to write a contract or lease on a property they have not visited themselves. These forms have the buyer (600J) or tenant (200A) acknowledge that they have not been to the property, that pictures may be misleading, and they understand the risks associated with writing a binding contract on the property. These forms are available in the Virginia REALTORS® Forms Library and can be used even if a virtual tour is available. Added 3/24/20


Q. Will Virginia REALTORS® release forms language to assist with new and pending transactions?

A. Yes, Virginia REALTORS® has created a new COVID-19 Addendum (Form 600 COVID) that can be used in existing and new transactions. UPDATED 3/18/20


Q. Can I use the Virginia REALTORS® COVID-19 Addendum with a non-Virginia REALTORS® sales contract?

A. Yes, but check that capitalized terms (such as Settlement Date and Deposit) do not have different meanings in your contract. If there are differences, you can clarify any issues in the “Additional Terms” section by stating that “As used in this Addendum, Deposit means Earnest Money Deposit in the Contract”. Use of “Buyer” instead of “Purchaser” is not an issue since the form begins with defining that person.


Q. Is the Virginia REALTORS® COVID-19 Addendum mandatory?

A. No, like any other contingency, this document is not mandatory; however, getting this addendum signed early will help protect both parties should issues arise later in the transaction. ADDED 3/19/20


Q. What should I say if my seller asks why they should agree to the COVID-19 Addendum?

A. We have received a number of hotline questions from listing agents who have sellers that are impacted. (They can’t close on their next house, they are now subject to quarantine, there is a title issue that can’t be resolved due to closures, etc.) This form protects both parties by essentially pressing “pause” on the transaction for a period of time while things get figured out. While the form includes default timelines for the length of the “pause” and how long the “pause” can last in total, there are blanks that allow the parties to change those defaults to suit their needs. ADDED 3/19/20


Q. Remote Notarization – What is it?

A. Virginia law allows for remote online notarization. Remote notarizations allow an electronic notary to use the internet to notarize a document. Though there are certain requirements and it is a different experience than a traditional face-to-face closing, this is a great example of things we can be utilizing, as an industry, to help do our part to flatten the curve.

If you are an agent, talk to your broker about whether or not they know of your settlement companies or closing attorneys utilize it. If you are a broker, ask your settlement company or closing attorney. ADDED 3/23/20


Q. Can I refuse to show houses to someone who has been in an area with higher numbers of COVID-19 cases?

A. NAR has provided guidance that says you may ask all clients and potential clients if they have traveled recently or are showing signs of respiratory illness; however, you want to make sure that you ask ALL individuals the same question. Refusing to engage with a client or potential client who may be at risk could lead to a potential fair housing complaint. If you are concerned about exposure, you can always take additional precautions if your client has recently traveled to a location where there is higher risk of exposure.


Q. Can my seller refuse to allow access to their house?

A. It depends. If the house is not under contract, the seller can restrict access to their house, but it needs to be done in a uniform manner to prevent fair housing allegations. If your seller has concerns about exposure to Coronavirus, consider withdrawing the property or check your local MLS rules regarding no access to listed property. If the house is already under contract, the seller must allow access as called for in the contract. This typically includes inspectors, appraisers, and a few others. The seller does not have to grant access beyond what is called for in the contract (for example, the seller does not have to allow the buyer into the property to measure for furniture or drapes unless specifically stated in the contract).


Q. Can my seller demand I hold open houses?

A. This will depend on the terms of your listing agreement. The Virginia REALTORS® Listing Agreement (Form 400) does not specifically require the broker to hold open houses. Form 400 says the broker will “make commercially reasonable efforts” to obtain a buyer and that the seller authorizes the broker to “take all appropriate action to bring about a sale of the property.” If you are using a different form or have added language that says you will hold open houses, you will need to abide by the agreement.


Q. Can a buyer (or seller) terminate a contract because of Coronavirus?

A. There is nothing in the Virginia REALTORS® Sales Contract (Form 600) that would give either party the right to terminate because of Coronavirus. It is possible that the contract may be terminated under a different provision – for example, if a HOA office is closed and cannot provide the HOA packet, the buyer would be able to terminate.


Q. If the courts close, does that mean settlement can’t occur?

A. Many settlement providers are able to conduct closings electronically, and some courts are able to accept electronic filings. Speak to your settlement service provider about how court closings will impact your transaction.


Q. What happens if a buyer is unable to attend settlement because they are quarantined?

A. If the settlement agent is able to perform electronic (remote) settlements, settlement can still occur, even if the buyer is not able to be there in person. Speak with your settlement service provider about how this could impact your transaction.


Q. What happens if a seller cannot move out of the house because they are quarantined?

A. As soon as you become aware that this is a possibility, both agents should talk to their clients about the possibility of a post-settlement occupancy agreement. If a seller is under medically required quarantine, it’s unclear how courts would rule about the contractual obligation to deliver possession at settlement.


Q. Does the seller have to do a deeper clean when they move out, prior to settlement?

A. Most contracts in Virginia require the seller to deliver the property in “broom clean” condition. Without additional language in the contract, there is currently no requirement that the seller do any further cleaning before delivering possession of the property. If the buyer would like a deeper cleaning of the property, that should be negotiated and included as a term of the contract.


Q. If I hold an open house and someone who is sick comes through, am I liable if my seller or another person coming through the house gets sick?

A. It is unlikely that you will liable if someone gets sick from an open house. You can limit your risk by not holding an open house if the seller has been exposed or is showing symptoms of illness; asking people who attend the open house if they have been exposed or are showing symptoms of illness to take precautions or attend a different day or virtually; and reminding everyone to take precautions to limit their exposure and exposure of others.


Q. What can I do to minimize risk while holding an open house?

  • Have all individuals who enter immediately wash their hands or use hand sanitizer.
  • Have lots of extra pens and allow each person who signs in to use one pen that they then keep or you sanitize before another person uses.
  • Ask people for their names and contact information that you write down or record on your electronic device
  • Open all doors prior to the start of the open house so that people can walk around the house without touching door knobs
  • Have paper towels near sinks in the event someone wants to turn a sink on/off.
  • Restrict the number of people in the house at any given time to ensure that people can maintain the recommended 6 foot distance

Q. What if a buyer cannot get inspections during the inspection period because he or she is unable to schedule a qualified inspector? Or if a home owner is unable to get contractors to make the negotiated repairs?

A. Speak with your client about this possibility that home inspectors may be unwilling or unable to perform inspections during this period or that contractors may be unwilling or unable to perform repairs. Work that language into your offer, or, if you are already under contract, work with the parties to negotiate an amendment to the Home Inspection Contingency Addendum.


Q. What if a buyer can no longer obtain financing because of changes in income or employment?

A. The contract addresses what happens when the seller cannot obtain financing in the financing contingency and does not provide an exception for unemployment due to a pandemic.

 

Forms FAQs

Using the Virginia REALTORS® COVID-19 Sales Addendum

We’ve gotten a number of questions about the differences between the Virginia REALTORS® COVID-19 Addendum and the addenda created by other forms providers, so we’d like to answer some of the most common ones.

We want to start by saying that, under normal circumstances we don’t encourage the mixing and matching of addenda with contracts written by different forms providers; however, in the current COVID-19 environment, our highest priority is protecting the interests of your clients. Because the various addenda being created do a few different things, we encourage you to use the one that best addresses your clients’ circumstances.

Below, we provide guidance that is specific to the COVID-19 addenda that are being released by the various forms providers.


Q. Do you have to use an addendum?

A. No, but we strongly advise you to talk with your broker and have your client talk with an attorney before not using one. An addendum addressing the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic will help the parties to understand their rights and options under the contract as this situation continues to evolve.


Q. What happens if you don’t use an addendum or one party refuses to sign an extension or addendum?

A. Without the addendum, the parties remain obligated to perform under the contract as written. It is possible that one party could allege that the non-performing party is in default of the contract; however, Virginia contract law has a concept called “impossibility.” Essentially, if it becomes impossible for one party to complete their end of the bargain through no fault of their own, they will not be obligated to complete the contract.


Q. If you are already protected by contract impossibility, why do you need an addendum?

A. While the common law often provides answers for most situations, it involves going to court to fight over issues that can often be addressed more easily in the contract. Additionally, using an addendum allows the parties to set expectations and agree to certain terms up front, including the ability to terminate the contract at some point. If you rely on the concept of impossibility, the status of the contract, and the property, could remain in limbo for weeks or even months. Additionally, the EMD will have to be held in escrow until there is a signed release or a court order, meaning the buyer’s money could be tied up for months.


Q. Do you have to use one of the addenda created by an association?

A. While the law doesn’t require you to use a particular form, be aware that most E&O insurance policies will only cover transactions that use forms drafted by an attorney or trade association. Before you draft language yourself, make sure you talk to your broker and check your E&O policy. Additionally, drafting significant language for a transaction starts to cross the line into practicing law without a license.


Q. What does the Virginia REALTORS® Addendum do?

A. The Virginia REALTORS® Addendum works to keep the contract alive. It can be signed when the contract is ratified as part of the initial contract or after contract ratification in the event that an issue arises later. The Virginia REALTORS® Addendum creates a mechanism where, should a complication related to COVID-19 arise, either party can send written notice to the other, essentially hitting the “pause” button on everything in the contract until a set number of days after the triggering event ends. There is also a maximum number of days the contract will be paused before either party can terminate the contract. Finally, it allows for either party to terminate the contract if the COVID-19 condition extends beyond an agreed upon number of days.

COVID-19 Sales Contract Addendum

Addendum for sales contracts incorporating the impact of COVID-19 on real estate transactions. NOTE: You must be logged in to access this PDF.

COVID-19 Addendum
Coronavirus Questions?

If you have a specific question for us, please use the Legal Hotline.

COVID-19 Links

For information about the vaccine, please visit the VDH website’s COVID FAQs.

NAR COVID-19 Resources

Centers for Disease Control  and Prevention (CDC) 

Internal Revenue Service

Virginia Department of Health – COVID-19 Resources

Virginia Employment Commission

National Association of REALTORS® Members TeleHealth

Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR)

DPOR Adjusts Call Center in Response to COVID-19

Beginning on April 2, the DPOR Call Center will only take calls from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The staff at DPOR is asking you to either go to their website, www.dpor.gov, to seek the answers to your questions, or to email REBoard@dpor.virginia.gov if you cannot find the appropriate resource on their website BEFORE calling.