God. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill to reopen the real estate industry, then turned around and issued guidelines to accomplish the same goal this week. PA Post reporter covering state government issues tells how it happened in this story.
by Benjamin Pontz, PA Post
The bill would have classified real estate as a life-sustaining business. That move would allow 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 with 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
Failure to follow directive: Licenses suspended
Real estate professionals failing to follow the directive could have their licenses suspended. That’s 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.
Wolf press secretary Lyndsay Kensinger said HB 2412 doesn’t provide enough safety protocols for the COVID-19 public health crisis.
The bill “eliminated a municipality’s ability to issue use and occupancy permits and conduct safety inspections.” Those two things are normally conditions of a property transfer, she said.
The text of the bill required real estate businesses “adhere to social distancing practices and other mitigation measures.”
Veto override: ‘Not off the table’
State Sen. Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) said he would not take a veto override attempt off the table. He was glad Pennsylvania will become the 50th state to allow real estate transactions during the COVID-19 emergency, he said.
“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 the governor’s executive action offered more specific guidance than the House Bill 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 Democratic leaders asked for in a letter sent to Wolf on Sunday.
“Real estate can be practiced safely with this guidance,” he said.
Ben Pontz covers state and local government for PA Post. He previously worked as an Associate Producer with Smart Talk. Pontz is a graduate of Gettysburg College where he double-majored in political science and public policy with a minor in music. He served as editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, The Gettysburgian.