On Tuesday, November 17th Pennsylvania announced new restrictions caused by the increase in COVID-19 cases. Several new rules effect real estate including out of state clients must be tested or quarantined and additional requirements on the waring of masks.
Out of State Clients Must be Tested or Quarantined
The biggest change is the addition of a totally new testing and quarantine order. The state previously recommended (but did not require) a 14-day quarantine for those visiting or returning from certain states. As of Nov. 20, however, it is now a requirement that anyone visiting or returning to Pennsylvania from another state either: (a) “produce evidence” of a negative COVID-19 test “collected within 72 hours prior to entering the commonwealth;” or (b) quarantine for 14 days in one location, with face-to-face interactions limited to their travel group or household.
The primary impact on real estate is going to be for those agents who have buyers or short-term renters coming into Pennsylvania from across state lines. Under this order, those clients would either need negative tests from the prior three days or would need to quarantine for 14 days after arrival.
There are several exceptions to this rule, including for those passing through the state on the way to another destination and those who regularly cross borders for work in Pennsylvania or a neighboring state. But before you ask, the answer is “no – these aren’t loopholes.” For example, a short-term rental client isn’t “in transit through the commonwealth to another destination” if he drives from New York to Chicago and spends a week in Pittsburgh. Nor is a buyer from New Jersey “in transit” if he leaves New Jersey, spends six hours touring homes in the Poconos and then returns to New Jersey. That exception is only good for “the amount of time necessary to complete the transit.” Once the traveler stops traveling and starts renting/touring the exception is done. Similarly, a short-term rental isn’t travel “for the purpose of work” just because the renter does a little work during their vacation, nor is an out-of-state buyer traveling for work just because it’s the agent’s work to show houses – it has to be something that’s necessary for the work of the traveler themselves.
Waring of Masks
The new mask order specifically states that businesses must “require that all people, including their employees, customers… and visitors, wear a face covering and take reasonable steps to enforce the requirement. Businesses must also post signs notifying every one of the masking rules – even just a simple sign. While new to the mask order itself, this is similar to language already included in the general business guidance that would apply to real estate offices and off-site work such as showings, so it’s something you should already have been doing.