Keeping our RASEM Members informed during these changing times is something we take seriously. If you have any questions, call us at 508-993-0406.
RASEM staff have been brought back into the office as of Monday, June 1st. During last week's Zoom Staff Meeting, the staff trained on new COVID-19 Protocols related to the operation of the business, in an effort to maximize the safety of our staff and members during the pandemic. PLEASE NOTE that currently the building is locked. Member and visitors needing to go into the office will need to contact RASEM and setup an appointment to enter the building in advance. We will continue to monitor the CDC Guidelines and the Governor's Directives when it comes to eventually scheduling in-person classes, meetings and events. Until that time, RASEM will continue to offer online education, Zoom meetings and conference calls and will send out additional advisories as conditions warrant it. Staff's email as well as phone extensions are located in the "Contact Us" Tab.
Smoke Certificate Addendum
Supreme Court Ends Eviction Moratorium
On August 26, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion ending the CDC moratorium that had recently been extended to October 3rd. The Supreme Court reasoned that the CDC lacked authority to issue the moratorium, and any further extension or similar rule would have to be enacted by Congress. Legal challenge of the CDC moratorium was led by the Alabama and Georgia Associations of REALTORS® with assistance from the National Association of REALTORS®.
The decision means that Massachusetts courts will now be able to issue final execution orders in eviction cases regardless of COVID-19 impacts. However, eviction cases for tenants with pending rental assistance applications will continue to be paused until applications are resolved.
Eviction filings remain at low levels because Massachusetts is a national leader in distributing rental assistance funds through the Eviction Diversion Initiative. MAR will continue its advocacy on this issue and provide further updates should policies continue to change.
Update on COVID-19 Relief Bill
On December 27, President Donald Trump signed a new COVID relief bill into law. Here are some of the key items for Realtors® (read more):
- Direct Stimulus Payments - $600 direct stimulus payments to most Americans and dependents.
- Unemployment Add-On - An additional $300 weekly unemployment benefit through March 14, 2021.
- Unemployment for Independent Contactors - This program has been extended - from 39 to 50 weeks with a new end date of March 14, 2021. There is also a new provision requiring income verification. Current recipients, keep an eye out for updates from the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance on how to provide the necessary documentation.
- Eviction Moratorium Extension - the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) eviction moratorium that was set to expire on December 31, 2020, has been extended through January 31, 2021. This moratorium prevents evictions for non-payment of rent by qualified tenants who submit a written declaration to their property owners. It is expected that Massachusetts courts will continue to accept filings, process cases, and enter judgments, but will not issue orders of execution until after the CDC order expires, now on January 31, 2021 (read more).
- Emergency Rental Assistance - Massachusetts is expected to receive $458 million to help cover rent and utility arrearages and limited prospective rent and utilities costs.
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) - $284.5 billion in new funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to provide loans for first- and second-time applicants.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) - $20 billion in funding and an extension of the application period through December 31, 2021, for EIDL loans. The new law also gives existing EIDL advance grantees who received less than the maximum allowable amount of $10,000 to reapply for the difference between the amount they received and that cap.
Update on PPP Loan Forgiveness
The U.S. Treasury Department has announced that the SBA will begin processing PPP loan forgiveness applications, following a delay which has caused many to get caught in a backlog. PPP borrowers are eligible for forgiveness if they meet the program's requirements, which include using at least 60% of the funds for payroll costs, and the remainder for other eligible uses (including rent, utility bills, and mortgage interest) during the covered period. (For full forgiveness requirements, see NAR's FAQ here.) PPP borrowers submit their forgiveness applications directly to the SBA lender they worked with, which then submits them to the SBA for processing. For detailed instructions on how to fill out the PPP EZ Forgiveness application form, watch NAR's step-by-step video here.
The SBA is expected to quickly approve forgiveness applications for loans less than $2 million, with reports that the backlog may be cleared in as little as two weeks. PPP borrowers have 10 months from the end of their loan's covered period to apply for forgiveness before any payments are due on the loans.
New MANDATORY Quarantine Order
On Friday, July 24, Governor Baker announced that all persons arriving in Massachusetts, including residents and non-residents, must quarantine for 14 days unless they meet one of seven exceptions. This order goes into effect as of August 1. This quarantine requirement would extend to vacationers coming to short-term rentals and incoming college students if they DO NOT fall into one of the following categories:
- They are coming from a lower risk state (currently including CT, RI, NH, VT, ME, NJ, NY, HI) and have not been present in any other states during the last 14 days.
- They have received a negative test result for a COVID-19 test performed within the last 72 hours.
- They pass through Massachusetts in the course of traveling to another place.
- They regularly commute either into or out of Massachusetts to a fixed place of work or school. This exception applies only to their commute.
- They are a patient or accompanying a patient receiving medical treatment in Massachusetts.
- They are required to travel to Massachusetts by a Federal or State military authority.
- They enter Massachusetts to perform a critical infrastructure function
Any person required to quarantine or provide the specified negative test result must also submit a Massachusetts Travel Form acknowledging and certifying their means of compliance with the order. Failure to comply can result in fines of $500 per day.
Governor Baker Extended the Emergency Eviction Moratorium Law
As expected, Governor Baker extended the emergency eviction moratorium law for 60 days until October 17, 2020 using emergency powers granted by the COVID-19 emergency eviction moratorium law. Specifically, he extended the moratoriums on most residential and small business evictions and foreclosures as well as the provisions permitting mortgage forbearance and use of last month’s rent to cover current expenses law. The emergency law does not relieve tenants or homeowners of their obligation to pay rent or make mortgage payments. The existing moratorium had been set to expire on August 18 but permits the governor to extend the moratorium in increments of up to 90 days.
On July 10, License Extension was Rescinded by Governor Baker
On July 10, 2020 Governor Baker rescinded the Emergency Order that extended real estate licenses. As a result, all licenses that were scheduled to expire between March 10th and July 10th will now expire October 1st. Licenses expiring on or after July 11th will renew as scheduled.
July 10, Governor Baker Rescinded the Smoke and CO Inspection Deferral Order
On July 10, Governor Baker will be rescinding the Emergency Order that allows parties to defer the smoke and carbon monoxide inspection until after close. For more information, click here.
The smoke and carbon monoxide emergency order is one of eight orders that are scheduled to be rescinded in the coming days. This marks a significant step forward in the reopening of the state.
Buyers that agreed to defer inspections now need to reach out to the local fire department to schedule the required inspection by Thursday, October 8, 2020.
Read more about the order here.
Best Practices for Reopening Your Real Estate Office
Although real estate was named an essential service throughout the State of Emergency, many real estate brokers elected to close their physical offices. Now that we have entered Phase 2 of the Reopening Plan, many offices are considering reopening their brick and mortar locations. If you choose to have your brick and mortar workspace open to employees and customers, you must, at a minimum, follow the guidance released by the Commonwealth.
What does this mean for your real estate office?
- Encourage agents to only come into the office when necessary – i.e. dropping of checks or contracts. Require advance notice of when agents will be in the office to ensure proper occupancy limitations.
- Maintain a date & time log of all individuals who enter the office.
- Conduct client meetings and trainings remotely whenever possible.
- Do not allow shared desks or sharing of office equipment.
- Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Clean and sanitize all high-touch surfaces in the office frequently, but at least daily and in between uses of shared spaces.
- Encourage workers and visitors to wear masks whenever possible.
- Use the COVID-19 Prevention Plan Template
- Download the Office Space Checklist
SBA Rolls out Important Updates to PPP
The Small Business Administration and U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday rolled out major updates to the Paycheck Protection Program, offering automatic forgiveness for certain independent contractors and creating a broader application form for forgiveness.
Specifically, the updated forms clarify that the “owner compensation” amount automatically forgiven for borrowers who use a 24-week covered period, as opposed to the original eight-week period, is equal to 2.5 times their average monthly net income. This means independent contractors with a 24-week loan can have the full amount automatically forgiven under the new guidelines. The amount of forgiveness for borrowers who choose an eight-week period remains unchanged.
Borrowers who received their PPP loans before June 5 can opt for either an eight- or 24-week period in which to use their loan; borrowers who received their loans after that date must use a 24-week period. The new forgiveness forms reflect a 60% requirement for payroll expenses, down from the original 75%.
Additionally, the agencies created a streamlined “EZ Forgiveness Application” for borrowers who:
- Are self-employed and have no employees; or
- Did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25% and did not reduce the number or hours of their employees; or
- Experienced reductions in business activity as a result of health directives related to COVID-19 and did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%.
“NAR has been working closely with congressional leaders to loosen forgiveness requirements,” says Shannon McGahn, senior vice president of government affairs for the National Association of REALTORS®. “Small-business owners don’t have the resources to hire lawyers and accountants like large companies, and they shouldn’t be burdened with paperwork and red tape at a time when they’re trying to stay afloat. These new guidelines should go a long way to help.”
The deadline to apply for a PPP loan is June 30. The program still has funding available and will close at the end of the month unless Congress acts to extend it.
PPP Flexibility Act Signed on June 5
On Friday, June 5, President Trump signed the "PPP Flexibility Act", which amends the CARES Act to give more flexibility to PPP borrowers in how they can use their loan proceeds. On June 3, the Senate passed the "PPP Flexibility Act" by unanimous consent and the House had passed it last week by a vote of 417-1. Specifically, the bill makes the following positive changes to the program:
- Extends the PPP program through the end of this year;
- Increases the amount of time borrowers have to use their loans from 8 to 24-weeks (borrowers who use it in 8 will not be penalized); and
- Decreases the mandatory payroll amount of the loan from 75% to 60%;
- Extends the forbearance period for a PPP loan from six-months to a year; and
- Extends the re-hire exemption for businesses from June 30 to December 31.
The SBA and Treasury will need to issue new guidance and new forms to reflect these changes to the program, which MAR anticipates will be top priorities for them. NAR is updating their resources to reflect these changes and will keep you apprised as we learn more from the Treasury and SBA going forward.
COVID-19 Workplace Safety Standards
These sector specific COVID-19 workplace safety standards for Office Spaces are issued to provide businesses and other organizations operating within general use office spaces and workers in these office spaces with instructions to help protect against the spread of COVID-19. Workers and contractors must continue to telework if feasible.
These standards are minimum requirements only and are not exclusive or exhaustive. The public health data and matrix for disease prevention upon which these guidelines are based can and does change frequently, and the operator of the office space is accountable for adhering to all local, state and federal requirements. The operator of the office space is also responsible for staying abreast of any updates to these requirements.
PPP Forgiveness Application Now Available from the SBA
The Small Business Administration (SBA), in consultation with the Department of the Treasury, released the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan Forgiveness Application and detailed instructions for the application.
The form and instructions inform borrowers how to apply for forgiveness of their PPP loans, consistent with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). SBA will also soon issue regulations and guidance to further assist borrowers as they complete their applications, and to provide lenders with guidance on their responsibilities. The form and instructions include several measures to reduce compliance burdens and simplify the process for borrowers, including:
- Options for borrowers to calculate payroll costs using an “alternative payroll covered period” that aligns with borrowers’ regular payroll cycles
- Flexibility to include eligible payroll and non-payroll expenses paid or incurred during the eight-week period after receiving their PPP loan
- Step-by-step instructions on how to perform the calculations required by the CARES Act to confirm eligibility for loan forgiveness
- Borrower-friendly implementation of statutory exemptions from loan forgiveness reduction based on rehiring by June 30
- Addition of a new exemption from the loan forgiveness reduction for borrowers who have made a good-faith, written offer to rehire workers that was declined
The PPP was created by the CARES Act to provide forgivable loans to eligible small businesses to keep American workers on the payroll during the COVID-19 pandemic. The documents released today will help small businesses seek forgiveness at the conclusion of the eight week covered period, which begins with the disbursement of their loans.
FAQs about Complying with Fair Housing Act During COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic, REALTORS® continue to play an important role in assisting people to find homes. On March 4, NAR published Coronavirus: A Guide for REALTORS®, which is continually updated based on evolving guidance from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the White House, among others. These frequently asked questions about complying with the Fair Housing Act during the COVID-19 pandemic supplement our previous guidance. CLICK HERE if you would like to download the PDF version.
New Grant for Small Business
Available to Gateway City Small Businesses!
The Empowerment Grant for Small Businesses serves as a funding opportunity to support the needs of Massachusetts small businesses amid the COVID-19 outbreak in the spring of 2020. Grants will be focused on small business owners serving Massachusetts Gateway Cities.
Applicants can request up to $2,500 for needs related to continuing operation during and/or after the COVID-19 outbreak. Applications will be open until May 29th so don't hesitate to apply!
Eligible applicants must be:
- In operation for at least one year
- Registered in a Gateway City
- Considered a "small business"
Should you have any questions, please email the Office of Economic Empowerment at Empowerment@tre.state.ma.us
Remote Notarization Bill
The bill authorizes notarizations to occur through the use of real time electronic video conferencing during the current state of emergency. It lays out a specific process through which these notarizations must occur:
- All parties and the notary must be located in Massachusetts.
- All principal parties must provide proof of identity either during the video conference or by sending a copy of identification materials to the notary.
- The notary must observe execution of the document by all parties through real time electronic video conferencing.
- All executed documents must be sent to the notary for their stamp and signature following the video conference. Mortgage closings require a second video conference to confirm that the documents received by the notary are the same ones that were executed.
Congress Cleared Coronavirus Relief Bill
Under the agreement, the PPP will receive $310 billion in new cash, while the EIDL fund will receive an additional $60 billion. The bill sets aside $60 billion of the PPP funding for small and medium-sized community banks, which will provide extra help for self-employed individuals and small businesses that don't have relationships with larger banks.
"The PPP and EIDL had tremendous demand. Although the rollout was rocky, this latest bill should provide enough funds for everyone who needs a loan to get it. REALT ORS ® still waiting should contact their lender again and keep trying," says Shannon McGahn, senior vice president of advocacy for NAR. "We have a wealth of resources to help you through the process, including a new video just posted last night."
The bill also includes $25 billion for coronavirus testing and $75 billion for hospitals.
Quick Guidance for REALTORS® on the PPP and EIDL
- If you've already applied for an EIDL: The SBA is processing applications already in their system on a first-come, first-served basis. You do not need to reapply.
- If you have not already applied for an EIDL: Check back at the SBA application page once the additional funding is signed into law.
- If you've already applied for a PPP loan through an SBA lender but have not approved yet: Check with your lender to see if they are maintaining a queue of applications during the lapse or if you will need to reapply when the renewed funding comes through.
- If you have not applied yet for a PPP loan through an SBA lender: Have the application form filled out and your documentation ready to provide to your lender. (For businesses with employees, have payroll documentation; for independent contractors, have your 2019 Form 1040, Schedule C, and 1099-MISC.) If you have an existing relationship with an SBA lender, you should go to that lender first once the program reopens, but be prepared to try multiple lenders, which you can find on the SBA site.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Application Portal and Process
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provides payment to workers not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency such as:
- Self-employed individuals including, gig workers, freelancers, and individual contractors
- Those seeking part-time employment
- Claimants that have an insufficient work history to qualify for benefits
PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who are unable to work because of a COVID-19 related reason but aren't eligible for regular or extended unemployment benefits.
Applicants will need to provide the following information:
- Your social security number
- If you are not a citizen of the United States, your A Number (USCIS Number)
- Your residential address
- Your mailing address (if different from residential address)
- Your telephone number
- Your email address
- Your birth date
- Your wage records for 2019, which includes:
- 1099 forms
- Pay stubs
- Bank statements
- The social security number(s) and date(s) of birth for your dependent child(ren)
- If you want to use direct deposit for payment, your bank account and routing numbers
The Department of Unemployment Assistance will review your application.
The Department of Unemployment Assistance will review your PUA application and confirm details, including whether you are unemployed for a COVID-19 related reason, proof of your total wages, and whether, other than your COVID-19 related reason, you are able and available to work.
Continue to certify for weekly benefits.
You must certify for benefits every week that your work is impacted by COVID-19. You can certify your benefits online at https://ui-cares-act.mass.gov/PUA/ by logging into your account. This is accessible twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week.
Respond promptly to all requests you receive from the Department of Unemployment Assistance.
If there is a question of eligibility, you may receive a fact-finding questionnaire from the Department of Unemployment Assistance requesting information from you. You must respond to this questionnaire by the deadline specified. Failure to respond may result in a disqualification from receiving benefits. You can respond by logging into your account at https://ui-cares-act.mass.gov/PUA/
The Department of Unemployment Assistance will send a decision.
This decision tells you whether you've been approved for Pandemic Unemployment Benefits and how much you will potentially receive. If your application is denied, you can appeal the decision within 30 days. You can view decisions and file appeals by logging into your account at https://ui-cares-act.mass.gov/PUA/
If you are approved for PUA benefits, a payment will be made within 4-7 business days for individuals choosing direct deposit. For all others, a payment will be made within 10-14 business days.
Essential Business List
The essential business list has been updated and now includes residential and commercial real estate. This means that in addition to continuing regular practice within current health and safety guidelines, Realtors® may open their brick and mortar offices on April 1 to workers, clients, and the general public. MAR urges members to exercise extreme caution in doing so and to continue practicing remotely as much as possible. Please note that just because you CAN open your business office on April 1, does not mean that you HAVE to open and you CAN remain practicing remotely.
The revised business list also permits the opening of brick and mortar offices for real estate support services including those providing title searches, notarization, and recording services.
The Department of Public Health issued guidance for short-term rentals, restricting the rental of properties for 31-days or less to COVID-19 until May 4 (detailed below). The guidance expressly prohibits rentals of 31-days or less for leisure and vacation uses during that period, however, persons occupying short-term rentals as of March 31 may remain until the end of their originally scheduled term. Extensions are not permitted. The guidance does not impact leases longer than 31-days or stays after May 4, but be aware that this date can be extended.
If you have a lease in place for a short-term rental (31-days or less) beginning between March 31 and May 4, you may not provide occupancy. Follow the terms of your lease and consult with your attorney as needed to best address this issue with your clients. If using the MAR short-term rental lease, you will need to refund prorated rent until you are able to deliver occupancy. If you used a hosting platform for a rental during this period, review their service terms as many have issued their own guidance on how they will assist clients for bookings impacted by the pandemic.
The guidance permits the lease of short-term rentals for only the following uses:
- Housing for health care workers, first responders and essential COVID-19 essential workers.
- Housing for out-of-state workers engaged in transportation of materials, logistics, and construction associated with the delivery of health-related services, such as development of COVID-19 alternative care sites.
- Housing for vulnerable populations.
- Housing for Massachusetts residents who are self-isolating or self-quarantining or the families or roommates of individuals who are self-isolating or self-quarantining for only as long as necessary to complete the period of self-isolation or self-quarantine.
- Housing for individuals receiving long-term, specialized medical care from a physician located in Massachusetts and for accompanying family members.
- Housing when required by extenuating circumstances such as fire or casualty to ensure the care and safety of Massachusetts residents and to accommodate other persons unable to return to their own homes due to flight cancellations, border closures, or other direct and material constraints on travel.