Apartments and condominiums are of particular risk during this COVID-19 pandemic because there are often hundreds of people living in the same building. That means hundreds of people using the entrance foyer, using the elevator, checking the mail, putting out the garbage, and using condo/apartment facilities (if these are still open).
It’s important that brokers and real estate agents are mindful of this risk, and all COVID directives, including mask-wearing and sanitation, are followed.
As a broker, you can be held responsible for the failures of your team.
So you’ll want to ensure that your team, clients and prospects comply with COVID-19 directives and guidelines, to help you avoid a lawsuit. Here are some tips.
- Know the Federal, State and Local Laws
As a real estate broker, you must keep updated with all Federal, State and Local Laws and directives that relate to COVID-19. As a business owner, your team will look to you for guidance about how business should be done in a COVID environment. In most cases, you’ll want to not only comply but aim toward exceeding requirements, so your team, clients and prospects can keep safe. This will also help to protect your business — and avoid any potential lawsuits and any subsequent damage to your reputation and/or profits.
- Familiarize Yourself with any Condo or Homeowners Association Directives
If you and your team have condo and/or apartment building listings, you should familiarize yourself with any Condo or Homeowners Association policies. Consider these policies could change at a rapid rate as other directives do, to keep up with the fast pace of this coronavirus. As an example, some condo associations have implemented measures such as:
- Compulsory wearing of masks in common areas (e.g., laundry rooms)
- Restrictions on common facilities, such as gyms/exercise rooms or pools
- Restrictions for non-residents
- Requirements for negative COVID-19 test before use of common facilities
- Limits for the number of people in common areas
- Limits for the number of people in elevators and stairwells
In some cases, your agents may even come across an Association that has implemented COVID-19 restrictions which are more strict than the Federal/State/Local laws. For example, in an area where public pools are allowed to be opened, an association may choose to keep its pool closed for safety reasons.
- Standardize Mask-Wearing and Sanitation Procedures
As a broker, you have the opportunity to implement consistent systems, policies and procedures for your team. Standardize mask-wearing and sanitation procedures, so all of your team knows what’s required when visiting properties. Ensure your team is aware of the specific risks of dealing with apartments and condos during the pandemic. There’s an increased risk of transmission in these buildings, because of the large number of people that live in one building.
It’s good practice for brokers to provide masks to their agents or, at the very least, prescribe exactly what masks should be used. Common problems with masks include:masks that don’t fit properly, masks that don’t provide sufficient coverage, and masks made of a material that won’t actually prevent the transmission of COVID. To find out the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on masks, visit the CDC website.
Standardize sanitation procedures as much as possible, so there’s no confusion about what agents need to do at each property. Develop standard checklists for your agents, so they can be prepared at a moment’s notice, and so all agents are dealing with condos and apartments in a thorough and consistent manner.
- Educate and Train Your Team
One of the key challenges of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as a real estate agent is keeping up with the guidelines! Educate and train your team. Ensure all of your agents are aware of the restrictions and what they need to do to keep themselves, their clients and prospects safe.
They will inevitably come across some people who will simply not want to follow mask-wearing and sanitation directives. Ensure your team knows what to do if a client or prospect is non-compliant. To keep agents, clients and prospects safe, brokers are encouraged to take a hard line on non-compliance. Agreeing to anything else puts both you and your business at risk of a lawsuit.
Communicate to your team frequently via your team meetings and in-between if major changes to procedures need to be implemented on short notice. Ensure your agents understand that now is not the time to become complacent and let their guard down.
- Ensure You’re Protected with E&O Coverage
As a broker, you can be held accountable for your team. So if one of your agents does not comply with mask-wearing and sanitation, you may end up facing a lawsuit as a result.
Do you have adequate real estate Errors and Omissions insurance coverage in place for your team? (Are you looking for property management E&O insurance?)
CRES offers real estate E&O insurance for brokers and real estate agents. We’re real estate E&O specialists, and can help you put together the right specific-to-real-estate coverage for your specific business risks. We’re part of one of the largest insurance brokers in the world, so we have access to more E&O options to find you the best coverage at the best price.
Call CRES today and ask about Real Estate E&O Coverage for your real estate office at 800-880-2747.