Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
On April 29, the governor of Texas temporarily permitted persons to appear before a notary public via videoconference when executing real estate instruments such as mortgages. The Office of the Attorney General issued a set of conditions that must be met when using remote methods of notarization. These include the use of two-way video and audio communication permitting contemporaneous interaction, verification of identity, recordkeeping requirements, and attestations of the signatory and notary that they are physically located in Texas.
On April 28, the Pennsylvania Department of State issued revised guidance for real estate professionals, appraisers, notaries, title companies, and home inspectors in light of the Covid-19-related closures of non-essential businesses. The revised guidance limits in-person residential real estate activities to transactions related to existing homes under contract prior to March 18, 2020, new construction homes under a contract calling for closing or delivery on or after March 18, 2020, where a buyer can demonstrate that they had entered into an agreement for sale of their prior residence prior to March 18, 2020 or where a property subject to sale, home equity loan or home equity refinancing is located in certain regions of Pennsylvania.
On April 22, the Texas Credit Union Department announced the temporary waiver of certain appraisal requirements. The waivers allow credit unions to defer certain appraisals and evaluations for up to 120 days after closing and raise the threshold level when an appraisal is not required for residential real-estate transactions from $250,000 to $400,000.
On April 15, the California Department of Real Estate updated its FAQs for licensing processes. The FAQs answer questions relating, among other things, to the closure of DRE offices, the cancellation and rescheduling of licensing exams, renewal of real estate license, and electronic signatures on licensing documents.
California Department of Real Estate issues guidance regarding late submission of certain required reports
On April 13, the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) issued guidance providing that the DRE will review situations on a case-by-case basis with respect to deadlines for filing certain DRE required reports. Entities that are late in submitting their reports are requested to add a signed explanation as to the delay, if possible. The DRE will work with brokers who miss deadlines due to disruptions resulting from Covid-19.
On April 6, the Virginia governor signed HB 819 to add additional sections to the state code related to real estate settlements and settlement agents. Among other things, the amendments discuss the prohibition against the “payment or receipt of settlement services kickbacks, rebates, commissions, and other payments”—whether directly or indirectly—pursuant to an agreement or understanding to refer business incident to a settlement. The amendments also allow for the imposition of penalties and liabilities if a person is found to have willfully engaged in an act or practice in violation of this chapter. Specifically, the state attorney general may recover civil penalties of not more than $5,000 per violation, as well as costs, reasonable expenses, and attorney’s fees. The amendments take effect July 1.
On March 27, Governor Jay Inslee issued guidance on conducting real estate and mortgage transactions. The guidance declares that in-person meetings with customers, except when necessary for a customer to view a property or sign necessary documents, are prohibited, as are open-houses. Property viewings, inspections, appraisals, and final walk-throughs shall be arranged by appointment and limited to no more than two people on site at any one time. Except for the limited exceptions authorized above, all new real estate listings shall be facilitated remotely.
Massachusetts temporarily waives requirements for certain residential property inspections prior to sale
On March 20, the Massachusetts governor ordered that the inspections for smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors required by state law in connection with residential property sales may be deferred, provided that (1) the buyer agrees to take responsibility for equipping the property with the requisite alarms and detectors; and (2) the inspection is conducted within 90 days after the state of emergency for the Covid-19 outbreak is lifted.
On March 19, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb issued an executive order calling for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures of residential real estate. While the action does not absolve individuals of their obligations to pay their rent or mortgage, it does halt foreclosure and eviction proceedings until the state of emergency is lifted. The order also suspends any other statutes or rules connected to foreclosure and eviction proceedings.
On March 2, the South Dakota governor signed SB 28, which amends certain statutory provisions related to real estate licensing in the state. Among other things, SB 28 outlines reasons why an application for a license may be denied, including if an applicant “has been disciplined by a regulatory agency in relation to activities as a real estate salesperson or broker, broker associate, firm, appraiser, mortgage broker, or any other regulated licensee, including insurance, securities, law and commodities trading.” SB 28 also stipulates that the state’s real estate commission may issue restricted broker’s licenses, as well as administer and enforce outlined provisions. Licensure exemptions are also set forth. The amendments take effect July 1.