COVID-19 Resources

If you have general questions, concerns or suggestions about COVID-19 and your real estate transactions, please send those to COVID-19@garealtor.com.

 

COVID-19 Special Stipulation

On Wednesday, March 17, 2020, the GAR Forms Committee approved a special stipulation that real estate licensees can provide to their clients and customers who are concerned about the possibility of not being able to close on their transaction due to COVID-19. This stipulation was updated on Friday, April 17, 2020. Please seek guidance from your broker in determining if/when you should use this COVID-19 Special Stipulation in your real estate transactions.

COVID-19 SPECIAL STIPULATION

“Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary contained herein, in the event the Closing cannot occur when scheduled due to a COVID-19 related event (“CRE”) resulting in the closing attorney, the mortgage lender and/or the Buyer and/or Seller being unable to perform their respective obligations, then the Closing shall be postponed until 7 days after the specific event delaying the Closing has been resolved. If the Buyer or Seller is unable to perform due to a CRE, the affected party shall promptly notify the other party both of the CRE and of its resolution.

Buyer or Seller having concerns about attending the Closing or self-quarantining (in the absence of a quarantine or government ordered lockdown that specifically applies to Buyer and/or Seller) shall not excuse Buyer or Seller from attending the Closing either in-person, virtually or through a power of attorney. Buyer or Seller presently having COVID-19 shall excuse Buyer and/or Seller from attending the Closing until the party is no longer at risk of infecting others. However, in all situations where Buyer and/or Seller cannot attend the Closing, Buyer and or Seller shall use their best efforts to fulfill their contractual obligations through a power of attorney. Buyer or Seller experiencing a job loss, reduction in salary or other financial hardship shall not be deemed a CRE.

If the CRE causing a permitted delay results in the Closing being delayed by more than _____ days from the original Closing date, then either Buyer or Seller may terminate this Agreement without penalty upon notice to the other party.”

*For use in commercial real estate transactions where CRE has already been defined in your agreement, please consider writing out “COVID-19 Related Event” throughout the special stipulation.

COVID-19 Special Stipulation 4.2020 (updated) – click here to download Word doc

A Closer Look

Updated 4.17.2020

It has been a month since the Georgia REALTORS®’s Forms Committee met, drafted and approved of the COVID-19 Special Stipulation. In the last month, we have received several inquiries to our COVID-19@garealtor.com email regarding the special stipulation and whether the loss of financing by either party to a transaction constitutes a COVID-19 Related Event (“CRE”)*. Due to all of the inquiries, the Forms Committee determined that it was prudent to release an update to the Special Stipulation as follows to clarify the intent of the Forms Committee:

“Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary contained herein, in the event the Closing cannot occur when scheduled due to a COVID-19 related event (“CRE”) resulting in the closing attorney, the mortgage lender and/or the Buyer and/or Seller being unable to perform their respective obligations, then the Closing shall be postponed until 7 days after the specific event delaying the Closing has been resolved. If the Buyer or Seller is unable to perform due to a CRE, the affected party shall promptly notify the other party both of the CRE and of its resolution.

Buyer or Seller having concerns about attending the Closing or self-quarantining (in the absence of a quarantine or government ordered lockdown that specifically applies to Buyer and/or Seller) shall not excuse Buyer or Seller from attending the Closing either in-person, virtually or through a power of attorney. Buyer or Seller presently having COVID-19 shall excuse Buyer and/or Seller from attending the Closing until the party is no longer at risk of infecting others. However, in all situations where Buyer and/or Seller cannot attend the Closing, Buyer and or Seller shall use their best efforts to fulfill their contractual obligations through a power of attorney. Buyer or Seller experiencing a job loss, reduction in salary or other financial hardship shall not be deemed a CRE.

If the CRE causing a permitted delay results in the Closing being delayed by more than _____ days from the original Closing date, then either Buyer or Seller may terminate this Agreement without penalty upon notice to the other party.”

*For use in commercial real estate transactions where CRE has already been defined in your agreement, please consider writing out “COVID-19 Related Event” throughout the special stipulation.

What Does This Mean?

For agents representing buyers who are concerned about their ability to obtain financing due to COVID-19, they are encouraged to have the difficult conversation with the buyer to determine if now is the right time to try to purchase a home. Additionally, for those buyers who do need to move forward, they should consider a longer financing contingency to protect their earnest money.

As previously mentioned, this additional language clarifies the Forms Committee’s original intent; it does not reflect a change in the Forms Committee’s position. The use of this special stipulation is completely optional. Although this is language released by Georgia REALTORS®, you are welcome to modify it (with your broker’s guidance and approval) as you see fit for your transactions. Should you have questions as to whether or not you should use this special stipulation in your contracts moving forward, please speak with your broker.

GAR Meetings & Events Affected by COVID-19

In March 2021, GAR held a hybrid Inaugural Conference, in which members had the choice to attend virtually or in person. As of May 2021, many of GAR’s committee meetings were being held in person. The GAR Annual Conference & Expo, scheduled for August 30-September 3, will be a in-person conference with an option to attend virtually. Please visit the Annual Conference & Expo page for more information.
Additional Resources

Georgia COVID-19 hotline: 844-442-2681
The State of Georgia has a COVID-19 hotline. If you believe that you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, please contact your primary care doctor, an urgent care clinic, or your local federally qualified healthcare center. Please do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility.

Click on the links below to be taken to web pages from these agencies that are specifically related to COVID-19:

GEORGIA

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

FEDERAL AGENCIES

Local Board/Association Resources

Below are resources that have been provided to GAR from some of our local boards/associations. Click here for a listing of all local boards throughout the state.

Athens
East Central Health District: https://ecphd.com/

Atlanta
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta: https://www.frbatlanta.org/news/covid-19

Albany
Phoebe Health: https://www.phoebehealth.com/media-center/media-center-news-story?news=4569

Cobb
Cobb Association: https://www.cobbrealtors.com/coronoavirus/

Columbus
Columbus Chamber of Commerce: https://columbusgachamber.com/coronavirus-update/

East Metro
City of Conyers: http://www.conyersga.com/
City of Covington: https://cityofcovington.org/
Health Department: http://www.gnrhealth.com/
Newton County Government: http://www.co.newton.ga.us/
Rockdale County Government: https://rockdalecountyga.gov/

Fayette County
Fayette County Government: https://fayettecountyga.gov/coronavirus-information

Hinesville
Hinesville Health Department: https://www.gachd.org/
Hinesville City Government: https://www.cityofhinesville.org/

Lake Country
Baldwin County: https://www.baldwincountyga.com/county-news/
Putnam County: https://www.putnamcountyga.us/emergency/page/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19
Green County: http://www.greenecountyga.gov/index.php submenu=COVID19&submenu=COVID19Resources&src=gendocs&ref=COVID-19&link=COVID-19
Morgan County: https://www.morganga.org/
Jasper County: https://jaspercountyga.org/news/
Hancock County: http://hancockcountyga.gov/

Metro South
Butts Health Department: https://www.district4health.org/clinic-sites/butts-county/
Butts County Government: https://buttscountyga.com/
Clayton Health Department: http://www.claytoncountypublichealth.org/
Clayton Government: https://www.claytoncountyga.gov/
Henry Health Department: https://www.district4health.org/clinic-sites/henry-county/
Henry Government: https://www.co.henry.ga.us/Visitors/About-Henry-County

Newnan Coweta
Coweta County: https://www.coweta.ga.us/our-county/covid-19-coronavirus-updates
Coweta County Doing Business pdf: https://www.coweta.ga.us/Home/ShowDocument?id=20130
Newnan – Coweta Chamber of Commerce: https://www.connectingcoweta.com/

Northeast Georgia
Fannin County: https://www.fannincountyga.com/
Gilmer County: http://gilmercounty-ga.gov/
Towns County: http://www.townscountyga.org/government.html-
Union County: http://www.unioncountyga.gov/

Southwest Georgia Board
Decatur County: http://www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org/decatur/
Grady County: http://www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org/grady/ 
Miller County: http://www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org/miller/
Mitchell County: http://www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org/mitchell/
Seminole County: http://www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org/seminole/

Valdosta
Valdosta/Lowndes County: www.lowndescounty.com

FAQs Regarding COVID-19 and Liability

Answers provided by Seth G. Weissman, GAR General Counsel

  1. As a listing agent, am I required to disclose to buyers that the seller has or had COVID-19?

A seller owes a general duty to keep his or her property safe for people invited onto the property including potential buyers. Therefore, if a seller has an active case of COVID-19, he or she should not allow anyone onto the property since doing so might not be safe. REALTORS® owe a similar duty to disclose hazards on the property to buyers. If the REALTOR® knows that the seller has an active case of COVID-19, the REALTOR® also likely owes a duty to disclose this to potential buyers. Some REALTORS® have asked whether HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prevents REALTORS® from disclosing a person’s medical condition. This law applies to health care professionals but not to REALTORS®. As a result, REALTORS® may disclose this information.

With respect to a duty to disclose that the seller had COVID-19 in the past, the question for REALTORS® is whether it is now safe for visitors to be in the house? If the property has been thoroughly cleaned and a sufficient time period has lapsed for any lingering virus germs to have died, there is not likely a duty to disclose.

  1. Can I be held liable as the listing agent if the seller claims that he or she contracted COVID-19 from a buyer to whom I showed the property?

While in the law, we never like to say never, it is highly unlikely that a seller could successfully win such a claim. In all likelihood, a court would find that the seller assumed the risk of contracting COVID-19 when the seller listed the property during a pandemic involving a highly contagious disease knowing that potential buyers with the virus might be viewing the property. Assumption of risk is a well-accepted legal defense in Georgia where if the plaintiff knows the risks of a course of conduct, the plaintiff is viewed to have constructively consented to those risks.

A client who signs the GAR Exclusive Seller Listing Agreement also agrees to limit the liability of the REALTORS® to the amount of the commission the REALTOR® is paid in a transaction or if no commission is paid then to $100. While it would be a case of first impression in Georgia, the limitation of liability should apply to a COVID-19 damages claim.

  1. Can I be held liable if a buyer claims to have gotten COVID-19 from seeing my listing?

The same assumption of risk defense discussed above would apply here as well. With the daily barrage of news on COVID-19, it would be hard for a buyer to argue that he or she was unaware of the risks of getting the COVID-19 virus whenever the buyer interacted with people or was on someone else’s property. While the limitation of liability would not apply to claims brought by a buyer (since it only protects the listing agent against claims brought by the seller), the buyer would also likely have a difficult time proving where he or she contracted the virus.

  1. Am I allowed to ask a buyer or seller if they have or had COVID-19 and am I required to keep their answers confidential if they so direct me?

Yes, a REALTOR® is allowed to ask buyers or sellers if they have or had COVID-19. Of course, nothing requires buyers or sellers to answer this question. If a client had COVID-19 and now asks you to keep that information confidential, you must keep the confidence under BRRETA unless you are required to disclose by law. Being required to disclose by law should include the obligation to disclose known hazards to buyers. Therefore, if a seller has COVID-19, the duty to disclose should trump the duty to keep the seller’s confidence. However, if the person no longer has the virus, the house has been cleaned and some reasonable period of time has passed for any lingering germs to die, then the duty to keep the confidence would likely prevail.

  1. As a listing agent, what kinds of things can I do to practically limit the risk of a buyer getting COVID-19 in one of my listings?

Prior to a showing, listing agents should turn on lights in the different rooms and open as many doors as possible to make it easier for a buyer to tour a home without touching too many things. If you or the seller can find gloves and/or masks, a courtesy pair or two should be left by the front door with a note saying, “For your protection and ours, please wear a mask and gloves while touring this home.” If you don’t have access to these things, writing a note to this effect in the multiple listing service in which the property is listed should help reduce the risk to buyers of actually contracting COVID-19. Masks and gloves are likely going to be part of the new normal for a while.