Why is NAR issuing this guidance?
In response to concerns about COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus, NAR is providing this guidance to help REALTOR® associations respond to the coronavirus's impact on association operations and the real estate industry. Although much of the country is in a recover and reopening phase, the situation continues to evolve. Be sure to refer to the CDC's website for up-to-date information about travel warnings, reopening guidance, and current information about the coronavirus' current impact in the United States. Daily updates about the coronavirus are also available from the World Health Organization.
What is Coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that has infected millions of individuals in over 200 countries and territories, causing the World Health Organization (WHO) to classify this outbreak as a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Anyone experiencing emergency signs such as difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or bluish lips or face should immediately seek medical attention.
What is the risk of exposure to coronavirus?
Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease, diabetes or autoimmune disorders seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person and the CDC urges citizens to monitor their health, practice social distancing, which means maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others, wear a face covering in public, and avoid crowded places and group gatherings of any size. Visit the CDC's website for latest updates and recommendations.
How should association staff reports of COVID-19 be handled?
NAR has prepared a Sample Preparedness Plan for Circumstances Relating to COVID-19 that any REALTOR® Association may adapt and implement in your workplace.
What should an association do if an association member reports a confirmed case of COVID-19?
If the member attended an in-person association-sponsored meeting or event within the past 14 days, the association should notify individuals who may have been exposed in accordance with the association’s Preparedness Plan, and without identifying the individual. If the member did not recently attend an association-sponsored meeting or event, the association should recommend the member report their confirmed case to their broker.
What preventative measures may be taken to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus?
The CDC urges individuals to take these measures to protect themselves and others:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Practice social distancing by staying out of crowded places, avoiding group gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering when around others.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
- Stay home if you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath or any other cold or flu-like symptom.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
How should associations address staff travel?
In light of the governmental travel bans and warnings, many U.S. companies have restricted all business travel, both domestic and international until further notice. Consider whether your association should implement similar business travel restrictions. Once a determination is made, be sure to communicate the association's policy to staff and appoint a staff contact for travel-related questions. Also, consider how to address staff's personal travel plans, and whether to adopt a policy that requires all staff who have recently traveled, or who have been in close contact with someone who has traveled, to work remotely for a specified period. Before returning to work, employees should confirm they are asymptomatic. If the employee shows symptoms of illness, consider extending the remote work period without penalty to the employee.
Should association events be canceled?
Associations should follow all local and state executive orders and guidance that impact the reopening of businesses and impose continued restrictions on in-person gatherings. If the association has in-person events planned in the near future, the association should consider canceling, postponing or converting it to a virtual event. For events taking place beyond the current recommendations for in-person gatherings in your area, the association should continue to monitor the situation and consider whether and when to cancel the event or convert it to a virtual meeting in order to limit in-person contact. In all cases, associations should continue to monitor updates from the CDC, as well as state and local health authorities for the most up-to-date additional information and guidance on holding events in your geographic area.
What precautions should associations take in the workplace?
Associations should follow all local and state executive orders and guidance that impact the reopening of businesses to the public. Be sure to understand whether, and under what conditions, a business may open pursuant to applicable orders. Associations should be sure to familiarize themselves with all relevant restrictions, as well as incorporate best practices when formulating a plan to reopen physical workplaces. NAR has prepared a Workplace Re-entry Checklist to help associations identify and consider what to address before reopening their offices. In addition to performing regular environmental cleaning with special attention paid to frequently touched surfaces, associations should implement a mandatory "stay-home" policy for any staff member exhibiting any sign of illness. Associations may also want to consider imposing a mandatory or maximum flexibility remote work policy for employees and in some instances, may be required to do so under their state or local orders. In addition, and based on CDC recommendations, associations should continue to take measures to limit in-person activities as much as possible, and consider holding virtual meetings as an alternative to in-person meetings and events.
For more information on creating a reopening plan, view this NAR webinar: What Will It Look Like? Tips to Help You Reopen Your Association.
Has NAR provided guidance for REALTORS® on coronavirus and its impact on their business?
Yes. Please refer members to NAR's "Coronavirus: A Guide for REALTORS®".
What else should associations consider?
Be sure to provide staff with regular and clear updates on how the association is responding to COVID-19. This includes informing staff about their rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, how local and state executive orders and guidance impacts the reopening of the association’s office. If the association is required to, or chooses to, keep its physical office closed, be sure to communicate with staff regarding remote work capabilities and expectations.
For questions about how to safely enforce the Code of Ethics, including the duty to arbitrate, during COVID-19, visit the FAQs for Professional Standards Enforcement During COVID-19 page.
Be sure to consult your legal counsel and/or employment counsel when making employment-related decisions. As an insured under the NAR Insurance Program, you also have access to the EPL Assist(TM) employment practices legal hotline. Learn more and register here.
Finally, continue to stay informed, and use your best judgment. Focus on putting policies and procedures in place to keep your employees and members informed and safe, and to avoid business disruption. The CDC's Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers is a helpful resource.
This guidance was originally published on March 4, 2020, and is being updated regularly. The date this information was most recently updated is at the top of this page.