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As Chicagoland reopens, what are the new rules for real estate?

by Meg White

As Chicagoland reopens, what are the new rules for real estate?

Citing the fact that Illinois is entering the third phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan today, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s Division of Real Estate released a new document outlining how agents and brokerages can conduct business within the new rules.

“In response to consumer and licensee inquiries and consistent with our division’s mission and promise, this brochure is intended to address ongoing questions about permitted real estate services during phase three,” Mario Treto, Jr., director of IDFPR’s real estate division, said in a letter accompanying the guidance. “Together we can ensure that the Illinois real estate industry continues to move forward as our licensees provide critical services to Illinois residents and consumers.”

While real estate was designated an essential service in the governor’s executive order, that did not mean that clients of real estate professionals were allowed to accompany agents in their work during the transaction. Therefore, this new phase does constitute a few changes for the industry.

“While phase three represents a less restrictive time for Illinois businesses, including real estate professionals, it remains vitally important that we all follow a safe and deliberate path forward,” the document noted.

While the department noted that virtual home showings are still preferred, it is acceptable to host an in-person open house or listing tour as long as no more than 10 people are inside at a given time and face coverings and social distancing guidelines are used. Disposable gloves and foot booties are not required, but still encouraged.

All of this guidance still applies in the case of a vacant listing. When a unit is occupied, IDFPR offered the additional guidance that showings be scheduled in advance with express consent from the owner of the property. For rentals, licensees have been directed to also give proper notice and seek consent from current tenants.

In terms of closings, virtual options were again encouraged, but if licensees can observe all the requirements put forth for showings, they are also permitted to be conducted in person.

The department recommended that all licensees continue to work from home and conduct client meetings remotely whenever possible. In cases where heading into the office or meeting in person is required, the recommendations include social distancing and the use of face masks.

For brokerages considering whether and how to open up their offices, the recommendations and requirements were similar, with a few extra precautions. While the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity has issued some minimum requirements for reopening offices, IDFPR shared these additional guidelines specifically for real estate brokerages:

  • Require employees and independent contractors to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth when within six feet of others
  • Use signs or tape to designate 6-foot spacing anyone who may be in line
  • Provide hand washing stations with paper towels and/or hand sanitizing equipment accessible to everyone in the office
  • Encourage frequent hand washing by both employees and independent contractors
  • Sanitize and disinfect common gathering places and frequently touched items, such as door handles and gate latches, as well as seating areas and arm rests
  • Offer separate operating hours for elderly and vulnerable clients
  • Post operating hours and remote access instructions online

The department pointed to the state’s definitions and FAQ on face masks for those unsure of what exactly constitutes a proper covering.

The notice also included advice for appraisers, inspectors, community managers and auctioneers, though they were much less specific in terms of guidance in these cases. In addition, the department suggested that some may want to check in with the Illinois Department of Employment Security in order to determine the effect that reopening might have on independent contractors’ eligibility for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

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