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The coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak is causing municipal and county government offices to drastically reduce their operations — affecting local code inspection processes and county recorder of deeds offices. At the Suburban Realtors® Alliance, we're working to minimize the impact of these changes on Realtors® and their clients who are involved in property transfers.
Because municipalities have different regulations and are reacting to the public health emergency in different ways, each case is unique. If you're involved in a transaction being held up by a municipal closure, your best sources for guidance right now are your company’s broker and counsel, as well as suggesting that sellers and buyers consult with their personal attorneys.
What Realtors® should know:
Below are resources for more information about how coronavirus is affecting real estate in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Jump to a section of this page:
How the pandemic is affecting Realtors® and real estate
7/13 — Gov. Wolf extends eviction and foreclosure moratorium through Aug. 31 (SRA News Briefs)
6/26 — Suburban Philadelphia counties set to go green on June 26 (SRA News Briefs)
6/11 — Watch: Realtor Town Hall with Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (SRA Video)
5/22 — All red PA counties move to yellow on June 5 (Spotlight PA)
5/21 — Wolf clarifies: Some evictions and foreclosures are permitted (Gov. Wolf)
5/15 — Watch: 'Legislative Update: Reopening Real Estate in Pennsylvania' (SRA Video)
5/1 — Watch: 'State of Bucks County: An Update for Realtors' (SRA/BCAR Video)
4/29 — PA real estate market adapts to COVID-19 (ft. SWRA Chairman Kit Antsey) (6ABC)
4/28 — Your Guide to PUA Benefits (NAR)
4/24 — Watch: SRA Hosts Legislative Town Hall with NAR, PAR (SRA Video)
4/24 — Wolf outlines three-step reopening plan; real estate returns in ‘yellow’ phase (SRA news brief)
4/24 — Pandemic Unemployment Assistance application available online (PA Dept. of Labor & Industry)
4/17 — Killion legislation would halt business evictions and foreclosures (Daily Local News)
4/16 — Rep. Polinchock introduces bill to allow safe real estate transactions (SRA news brief)
4/10 — PAR Advocates for Real Estate During Pandemic (PAR)
3/30 — Thanks to new affidavit, Aston can continue use and occupancy inspections (SRA news brief)
3/26 — No deed, no deal: Pa. real estate industry stymied by move online (Inquirer)
3/19 — COVID-19 Addendum Available for Use (PAR)
3/17 — As Local Governments Close, What Happens to Property Sales? (SRA Blog Post)
Questions we're hearing from Realtors about this situation.
Is Act 133 still in effect during the coronavirus outbreak?
Yes — if you have a property that was previously inspected, the municipality must issue at least a temporary access permit, allowing buyers of homes deemed “unfit for habitation” to access the building (without residing in it), and make substantial repairs within 12 months. It may also issue a normal use and occupancy permit (U&O) or a temporary U&O permit. Read more about Act 133 and the three types of resale permits here.
What have you heard about ____________ township?
We have been in contact with most boroughs, townships and cities in our coverage area, but the circumstances have been constantly evolving. We ask our members to contact us with issues in specific municipalities. For municipalities that have offered new formal processes for the state of emergency, e.g. those that have created new affidavits, we have updated our municipal database accordingly.
We have confirmed that recorders of deeds in Bucks, Chester and Montgomery counties will accept online notarizations in compliance with Gov. Wolf’s temporary order. Those offices also have web-based systems for e-filing and in some cases have waived fees for those services.
The Delaware County Recorder of Deeds does not currently have a web-based system for e-filing and has not responded to our inquiries regarding online notarizations.
How is the outbreak affecting the Delaware County comprehensive reassessment project?
According to the county's project website:
"[A]ll informal property reviews with Tyler Technologies will be conducted by telephone. ... Tyler Technologies will be calling you within an hour of that scheduled time to conduct your informal hearing by phone. ... YOUR PHONE LINE MUST ALLOW CALLS FROM PRIVATE NUMBERS OR WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO REACH YOU."
Where to find the latest information about the coronavirus outbreak.
PAR: The PA Association of Realtors has an indispensable information page with daily updates.
NAR: The National Association of Realtors page has been tracking federal relief packages and other topics.
BCAR: Important information for Realtors® in Bucks County.
MCAR: Important information for Realtors® in Montgomery County.
SWRA: Important information for Realtors® in Chester and Delaware counties and on the Main Line.
We want to hear about your experiences — good and bad — in working with municipalities.
Phone: 610-981-9000 (The SRA office is closed, but we are checking messages regularly.)
Here's a sampling of what we've been hearing from members since the coronavirus hit our region:
"I have a closing scheduled on March 25, but we need a re-inspection and the borough office just closed."
"The township just told me they are not conducting U & O inspections."
"Since they won't inspect, they want my buyer to sign a waiver saying she'll be responsible for any repairs they require after the sale."
Here are examples of municipalities finding a way to get the job done, even during the crisis:
“We are continuing with external inspections of properties, but we would love to see pictures if possible for the smoke detectors, fire extinguisher, hand rails and relief valve on the water heater. If needed, we will issue a conditional U&O for the property.”
“We are continuing our inspections, but will only enter buildings if they are unoccupied in an effort to protect our staff and avoid spreading the virus.”
Many municipal government offices have shut down or drastically reduced their operations during the public health emergency that is the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak. Where does that leave Realtors® and their clients? Because municipalities have different regulations and are reacting to the public health emergency in different ways, each case is unique. If you're involved in a transaction being held up by a municipal closure, your best sources for guidance right now are your company’s broker and counsel, as well as suggesting that sellers and buyers consult with their personal attorneys.
The Alliance has been in contact with individual municipalities when a settlement issue has been brought to our attention (with mixed success), and we are actively coordinating with the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® to find a broader solution to this unprecedented situation.
Here's what we know:
Municipalities can't do use and occupancy inspections if their codes departments are shuttered.
That leaves several possibilities that we have heard:
Of course, municipal inspections are just one part of the more complex process of buying or selling a property, and other areas may be similarly affected by the ongoing public health emergency. We will continue to coordinate with our leadership, our shareholders and the state association to find resolutions for these issues.
Please continue to keep us informed about your experiences with local, county and state government during the coronavirus outbreak. Email us at email@example.com.
Dear SRA members,
In response to the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak in our region, the Suburban Realtors® Alliance office in Malvern is temporarily closed, but our work continues uninterrupted.
Alliance staff are working remotely, starting this week through the end of March. We continue to monitor the news and legal notices for any issues that could affect the members of our three shareholder associations. Our municipal database remains online. We are in contact with government officials to ensure necessary public health measures cause as little disruption to real estate as possible.
Stay in touch.
As always, our Realtor® members are a vital source of on-the-ground information. Please continue to contact us with any questions, concerns or issues you’re experiencing. We are responding promptly to messages sent via email and phone.
As this outbreak progresses, we will send updates as necessary. In the meantime, we encourage you to utilize these sources of information.