COVID19 News

COVID-19 FAQs for REALTORS®

Last updated: 4/3/2020

Please see most  current Executive Order from Governor Gina Raimondo.

In Rhode Island, the closing date and mortgage contingency are not “time is of the essence” and the mortgage contingency already gives a buyer the ability to have his/her deposit refunded if the seller refuses to grant an extension. Attorneys can have buyers and sellers separately sign paperwork instead of gathering in person for the closing. As long as municipal government is still accepting closing documents, the transaction can close.

UPDATED 3/23/20:Since the COVID-19 virus has resulted in increasing government restrictions, RIAR encourages you to use the new RIAR COVID-19 Amendment to the Purchase and Sales Agreement. Please be aware, RI REALTORS is posting the COVID-19 amendment as a PDF to give REALTORS®, their clients, and attorneys maximum flexibility to adapt the language to specific situations by cutting and pasting. Since executive orders from the state and federal government are changing daily, we have not made it a permanent form in our forms platforms.

If a cooperating broker has COVID-19 related concerns about attending a showing in person, the cooperating broker should contact the listing broker to discuss other alternatives, such as arranging for a virtual showing, participating by phone and/or video, etc. By sending unaccompanied clients to a showing, a “no show” cooperating broker runs the risk of not being the procuring cause and not being entitled to compensation if the buyers decide to buy the property in addition to showing a lack of consideration towards the listing broker. Finally, this practice raises a question as to whether the cooperating broker is acting in his/her client’s best interest by sending them on their own. (Click here to learn more about what determines procuring cause.)
The Rhode Island Association of REALTORS® and State-Wide MLS recommend that real estate licensees refrain from holding open houses until further notice. Those involved with home tours of any means should follow the order issued by Governor Raimondo to avoid  gatherings of more than five people. Consider alternatives, such as hosting a virtual open house using live chat on Facebook or other platforms or using video and/or conferencing technology so that interested buyers, tenants, and/or cooperating brokers can “tour” the house at the same time. You can have someone available to answer questions during the virtual showing. Keep in mind that buyers and cooperating brokers might audio record answers and information that you provide, so if you’re not certain of an issue, write it down, and check with the seller or other necessary sources before responding. See more open house guidance from the National Association of REALTORS®. Please remember, prior to any type of showing, discuss the pros and cons with your clients, and advise sellers to disinfect their homes. UPDATE: If you decide to have a virtual open house or tour, you should disclose in your MLS listing’s Public Remarks that the open house or tour will be “virtual”. This will lessen the chance of any cooperating brokers and/or consumers physically showing up at the property.
During the COVID 19 crisis, State-Wide MLS is temporarily relaxing its rules requiring in-person/onsite showings for active listings to allow for “virtual showings.” The showing may be pre-recorded or can be live. However, for the showing to qualify, someone from the listing office must be available to answer questions. Listing brokers are cautioned to discuss with their legal counsel any risks associated with such showings. Tour URLs can be added to Showing Instructions field of the listing. You may also place URLs in the Public Remarks field.  However, this URL must direct users to an unbranded site.  This allowance is temporary and will be revoked when the crisis has subsided.  NOTE:  URL link will not be a live clickable link.  Users will need to copy and paste it into the browser or application for viewing.  In addition, certain third-party sites will remove the URLs and/or the entire remarks as a security measure.  Please check with any third-party site with whom you feed listings before putting a URL in the Public Remarks to prevent removal of your remarks. REMINDER – The listing broker is required to respond to a cooperating broker within 24 hours on a request for information or showing appointment on an active or Active/Under Contract listing. (MLS Section 5.1 Showings and Listings) If the property is not available for in-person showings or virtual showings, its status should be changed to “Withdrawn from Publication” (WW). The WW status indicates that your listing contract is still in full force and effect until the expiration date but is temporarily withdrawn from publication. You can add a note to the “Showing Instructions” field that the property is temporarily withdrawn because showings are currently suspended. Days on Market (DOM) will NOT accumulate for the period in which the listing is WW. When the sellers are willing to resume showings, change the listing status back to “Active”. While we understand some sellers will insist on leaving a property “active” despite not making showings available in any manner, doing so is a disservice to the brokerage community as it drives up the active inventory for properties not realistically available. Additionally, this is also a potential disservice to your sellers since leaving the listing active will simply drive up the DOM.
Smoke/CO inspections, title searches, recording of deeds, and related functions could be affected if a municipality decides to shut down these functions. Buyers and sellers can agree to extend their purchase and sales agreement if this occurs. Please see municipal information page for updates.
First, the deadline for the enforcement for home inspection licensure has been extended to at least May 1st, 2020. Second, home inspections must adhere to the guidance of limiting gatherings to know more than five and social distancing still is in effect. Out-of-state inspectors should follow the guidance of their state upon returning home.
Rhode Island (R.I.G.L. § 34-18-26) allows landlords, including listing brokers, property managers, and others to enter a rental unit for showings, inspections, repairs, etc. if the landlord gives the tenant “at least two (2) days’ notice of his or her intent to enter and may enter only at reasonable times.” While this legal right exists, the Rhode Island Association of REALTORS® recommends that property owners and REALTORS® be respectful of tenants’ health concerns and/or quarantine status during the COVID-19 state of emergency. Consider offering a video tour of the rental property. You could offer audio and/or video conference with the listing broker and/or landlord available to answer questions about the property. Even if the tenant agrees to “in-person” showings, follow government recommended protocols about social distancing and cleaning.
Typically, a brokerage or landlord would have no legal obligation to refund a non-refundable deposit as long the rental unit is accessible during the rental term. However, some tenants may be panicking because they are out of work, suffered a major loss in retirement income, or had to close a business during this state of emergency. The Rhode Island Association of REALTORS® encourages listing brokers to discuss options with your property owner clients. Options offering cancellations with full refunds; partial refunds; credits for a future booking, or taking a “wait and see” approach and wait until later this spring before making a firm decision.
See the answer to the open house question (#5). While it is easier to maintain a social distance if only a listing broker, cooperating broker and buyer(s) are viewing a property, there are still issues to consider, such as whether any of the occupants are under quarantine or are concerned about potential exposure to COVID-19 by having strangers walking through or touching light switches, doorknobs, walls, etc. in their living space. If a “shelter in place” order is issued by federal or state government, “in-person” showings could be on hold for a period of time unless real estate is treated by the government as an essential service that must continue.
The Rhode Island Judiciary has stopped holding non-emergency court hearings, including eviction hearings, until April 17, 2020. This means that a landlord cannot file a new eviction proceeding in court until April 17th or longer if the order is extended. While no new eviction cases will be heard, tenants for whom a judge has already ordered an eviction can still be forcibly removed from their homes. Emergency hearings are still being held, so someone facing eviction could ask a judge to review the situation.

If a tenant cannot afford the rent due to loss of a job or income as a result of the COVID-19 virus, the landlord could consider working with the tenant to arrange a payment plan. Even when the moratorium on new eviction actions and the federal and Rhode Island state of emergency is lifted, it will take time for workers in hospitality, retail, and other fields to restore their income.
Yes. One option is that a listing broker and seller may agree in writing to limit a showing to the necessary parties, which could include a cooperating broker and only those potential buyers whose names would appear on a purchase and sales agreement and deed instead of an extended family. A listing broker and seller could also decide to require anyone who attends a showing in person to be 18 or older to help limit the number of surfaces and items that are touched throughout the property. Listing brokers should make sure to obtain written authorization from the seller and to post any instructions or restrictions in MLS showing instructions.  All showings should adhere to Governor Raimondo's orders, which as of March 29th, state that no more than five people should gather in once place.
Even though mortgage rates are currently low, that could change once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. If you are a designated client representative for the buyer, consider advising the buyer to include a specific interest rate in the blank of this section of the Mortgage Contingency: “at an initial rate of interest not to exceed ________%.” If you’re not sure whether to use an amount instead of the prevailing rate, make sure to check with your broker or office administrator. If you decide to include an interest rate as a cap, check with a lender or mortgage broker.
Governor Raimondo has now ordered anyone from another state who plans to rent, live in a second or new home or stay with family or friends to self-quarantine for 14 days. New Shoreham has taken further precautions by enacting an emergency ordinance that dramatically restricts travel to and from Block Island and reservations for short-term lodging through April 15th. Check with individual towns and cities and monitor the Governor’s Executive Orders, since this information could change.
People coming from out-of- state to a second or new home, short-term rental or renting a hotel room, must self-quarantine for 14 days. REALTORS® handling a rental or sales transaction with a renter or buyer from another state are instructed by the State to furnish a formal notice to the renter/buyer outlining the Governor's mandate. They are also asked to have them sign an addendum to be included with their rental contract, lease or deed.
Yes, FEMA continues to take proactive steps to address the COVID-19 pandemic and to help serve its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) customers who may be experiencing financial hardships. The agency is extending the grace period to renew flood insurance policies from 30 to 120 days.

To avoid a lapse in coverage, there is typically a 30-day grace period to renew National Flood Insurance Program policies. However, due to the widespread economic disruption arising from this pandemic, FEMA recognizes that policyholders may not meet the standard deadline.

This extension will allow additional time for policyholders who may be struggling financially to pay insurance premiums and ensure their policies are not cancelled for nonpayment of premium due to circumstances beyond their control.

If a policy has an expiration date between February 13, 2020 and June 15, 2020, then the NFIP insurer must receive the appropriate renewal premium within 120 days of the expiration date to avoid a lapse in coverage. Likewise, if a policyholder receives an underpayment notice dated between February 13, 2020, and June 15, 2020, then the NFIP insurer must receive the additional premium amount requested within 120 days of the date of the notice.

Policyholders who need additional time to pay their premiums, beyond the 120-day extension, should contact their agent or insurer to inquire about other options the insurer may offer for premium payment.

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of External Affairs, Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs Division at (202) 646-3444 or at FEMA-IGA@fema.dhs.gov
Governor Raimondo has ordered those coming from out of state to a new or vacation home, short-term rental or renting a hotel room, to self-quarantine for 14 days. On March 28th, the State of Rhode Island issued a notice to REALTORS letting them know they should furnish renters/buyers coming to Rhode Island with an advisory regarding the Governor's orders. Realtors are also instructed to instruct renters/buyers from another state to sign an addendum when signing the rental agreement, lease or deed. The restrictions do not apply to public health, public safety or healthcare workers.
The quarantine provisions apply to those coming to RI for non-work reasons. Movers would be here for work. All commercial trucks are being allowed to pass / enter without interruption. Nevertheless, movers should follow Rhode Island's general guidance for social distancing. Upon returning to their state of origin, they should follow the guidance of that state.
We recommend they view the property via zoom/facetime, etc. Anyone coming from out of state and staying should quarantine for 14 days. . If they come to the showing in RI, and return to some other state, it would depend on that state’s guidance. There would be an exception if the buyer was a healthcare or public safety worker moving here for work. And yes, they can also be present at closings, though in most circumstances they will be recommended to quarantine after. For example, if they are from MA, Baker’s order would say they need to quarantine when they return to MA. If they come from out of state and stay in RI, they should quarantine for 14 days. If they come to the closing in RI, and return to some other state, it would also depend on that state’s guidance.
FHA and VA have joined Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in temporarily easing their appraisal standards to allow appraisers to examine the exterior of the property only. In some situations, the appraiser may be allowed to conduct an appraisal using only public records, MLS information, and other reliable third-party sources. Check with your mortgage broker, lender, and/or appraiser if have you questions about what standards will be used in a specific transaction. Appraisers who enter Rhode Island from another state may still conduct appraisals in Rhode Island as long as they leave as soon as they have completed their work to help minimize exposure to the COVID-19 virus. They would have to follow the guidance or their home state when leaving Rhode Island.

*Disclaimer: The Rhode Island Association of REALTORS® and State-Wide Multiple Listing Service have provided information and recommendations on this page to assist you.   Please check with your broker or manager to make sure that options, such as virtual showings and walkthroughs, are consistent with your company’s policies.  Your office may wish to consult your company’s attorney for specialized guidance

Information REALTORS® Need to Know

This page and the pages below will be continually updated as information becomes available.

Thank you for your patience during this challenging time. Please check this website often for updates. If you have further questions after reviewing this information, please email covid19@rirealtors.org.

For legal questions, please contact Monica Staaf – General Counsel at 401-432-6945 or monica@rirealtors.org.

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Chris Whitten
Chris Whitten

Thanks for all the work you are doing. I know much of it is unnoticed and behind the scenes but it’s comforting that our RIAR leaders and RIAR staff are always looking out for not only our members but our clients and communities! #RealtorStrong

Stephen Antoni
Stephen Antoni

Thank you for the information and best practices. they are timely and appreciated.