Gov. Wolf’s veto won’t stop real estate offices from reopening, thanks to Wolf

After rejecting bill to reopen real estate industry, Wolf issues guidelines to accomplish the same goal

  • Benjamin Pontz

Gov. Tom Wolf followed through on his promise to veto House Bill 2412 on Tuesday. The bill would have classified real estate as a life-sustaining business and allowed realtors to reopen so long as they followed social distancing measures.

But less than an hour after the veto announcement, Wolf issued guidance that will allow real estate transactions to resume.

According to the guidance issued by the Wolf administration, real estate businesses may resume in-person activity subject to social distancing guidelines. The businesses must:

  • Use separate modes of transportation to and from real estate showings.
  • Schedule all in-person activities including inspections, walkthroughs, office visits, and insurance activities by appointment.
  • Limit in-person activities to no more than one real estate agent and two other people at a time.
  • Use electronic notarization and powers of attorney for document review whenever possible.
  • Continue to telework for office functions as much as possible

Real estate professionals that fail to adhere to the directive could have their licenses suspended, a process that has already begun for realtors who conducted in-person activities prior to the release of the new guidance, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors said Monday.

In a press release, Wolf press secretary Lyndsay Kensinger said HB 2412 “does not provide enough safety protocols for the COVID-19 public health crisis” and would have “eliminated a municipality’s ability to issue use and occupancy permits and conduct safety inspections, which are conditions of a property transfer.”

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The text of the bill stated that real estate businesses “shall adhere to social distancing practices and other mitigation measures” defined by the CDC and the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health. Kensinger did not respond to an email Tuesday afternoon asking which safety measures in the governor’s executive action would not have been mandated under the bill.

State Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) said he would not take a veto override attempt off the table, but he said he was glad Pennsylvania would become the 50th state to allow real estate during the COVID-19 emergency.

“I would love to know what the science was behind all of the sudden deciding they were going to do this on their own,” said Martin. “I’m very disappointed to see the lack of cooperation especially on a bipartisan bill. To veto it and then turn around and basically put forth pretty much the exact same thing — some little twists here — I’m flabbergasted by that.”

Kensinger said that the governor’s executive action offered more specific guidance than the House Bill contained and avoided a provision that would have waived municipal inspection requirements.

“House Bill 2412 only required real estate professionals to follow our general Business Guidance and CDC guidance,” she said in an email. “The guidance issued by the administration today includes specific requirements and prohibitions tailored to the real estate industry and also doesn’t contain the automatic approval of occupancy permits approvals.”

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said on Twitter that this is just what he and other Democratic leaders asked for in a letter sent to Wolf on Sunday.

“Real estate can be practiced safely with this guidance,” he said.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to add a comment from Lyndsay Kensinger.

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