If you’re unsure of the best way to handle some real estate activities now that the state of Illinois has lifted its indoor mask mandate and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has changed the way it’s analyzing data about COVID-19, General Counsel and Vice President of Legal Services Betsy Urbance will help you understand.

In today’s podcast, Urbance gives you an overview and she explains what to do when businesses and local communities have policies that are different than state and federal government policies.

She suggests REALTORS® be considerate, kind and consistent in the ways they handle different daily real estate situations.

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Full Transcript:

Jeremy Goeckner: Hello, and welcome to the IR weekly podcast, keeping you up to date with all the latest news in the REALTOR® world. I’m Jeremy.

Kelli Jessup: And I’m Kelli. This week, the state of Illinois officially lifted its indoor mask mandate for the first time since the summer due to the declining number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations throughout the state.

Jeremy Goeckner: That’s right. If you’ll remember, we did talk about this upcoming lifting of the mandate when it was announced a few weeks ago, but since then we’ve gotten even more information and a few new developments. So we thought it was time to once again, clarify some facts and really get into what it means for specific real estate actions as well.

Kelli Jessup: That’s right. And of course, we only turn to one person when it comes to the subject. That’s right. Returning once again to the podcast is our General Counsel and Vice President of Legal Services for Illinois REALTORS®, Betsy Urbance. Welcome back, Betsy.

Betsy Urbance: Uh, did we ever leave? I feel like I haven’t. I feel like deja vu and this was like seven minutes ago but thank you for the warm welcome. Y’all are so nice.

Kelli Jessup: You’re our third host now.

Betsy Urbance: Yeah. Yeah. I pay you well to like, act like fans.

Jeremy Goeckner: That’s true, man. It’s like somebody would just come up just like you guys left. There’s a door.

Betsy Urbance: Weren’t you just here about that?

Jeremy Goeckner: Well Betsy, as always with COVID-19, anytime we want to talk about this, we want to start with a 30,000-foot view with anything when it comes to COVID and masks. So now that the mandate has been officially lifted by Governor Pritzker, what’s new? Since we last talked about this a few weeks ago, what has officially gone down now?

Betsy Urbance: Okay. So, I’ll talk about official; well, let’s just start with unofficial because I always like to turn things on their heads. The first thing I would say, regardless of what the official rule of law or rule of policy or whatever it is we’re talking about in this environment, we’re going to see people wearing masks. And so, the first thing I would say, or advise or suggest is good for them, if they’re doing it, they probably have a real good reason for doing it. So the first thing I would ask and it’s not legal, it’s just be considerate of folks that elect to wear masks, they probably have some very good reasons. They’re probably immuno-compromised themselves. If they’re not, they live with someone that is worried about their parents or whatever it is, it’s their thing. So, let’s respect that. Now, let’s get to what’s going on, you know, just because the mask mandate has been listed lifted doesn’t mean people can’t wear them. I guess that’s what I’m saying.

Jeremy Goeckner: So, it didn’t reverse?

Betsy Urbance: Yeah. And you know some people are probably like, hey, this is a really great idea, because I haven’t been sick. So anyway, but the state did lift the mask mandate for indoors. There are a couple exceptions and I’ll review those for the class here just in a minute. But it went into effect the Feb. 28. In the meantime, CDC kind of got going on maybe looking at some new metrics and revising its guidelines. So, the CDC guidelines, the new metrics they’re kind of looking at are beds, hospital beds, admissions, and new cases. And what they’re calling it is COVID-19 community level. They go to the state, then they break the state down into the counties and they look at those three metrics I just mentioned. And then they have, they categorize them as low, medium or high. They have a color code. If you go to CDC’s website and you look up the mask guidance, I think it’s mask guidance or somewhere in there, you’ll get to this easily, I think. And you can look up your state and you can see the counties and you can look up your specific county and it literally will be color coded. I think it goes green is low which makes sense, then yellow, then orange is still on fire a little bit so that corresponds to high.

So that’s what’s happening now having said all that, because we’re still at 30,000 feet, let’s drill down to communities and businesses, communities, and local governments. But local governments could still have a mandate in place for indoor settings. And if that’s the case, that’s what someone in that local municipality would follow companies for whatever reason. Let’s say you have a company where people are working shoulder to shoulder, they may still elect to keep a mask mandate in place in their indoor setting. People are working there for long periods of time. So, those are sorts of things that could still be in place. I’m just saying you got to make sure you check, and I think you will still see it in transportation if you’re on the train or planes because that’s a federal mandate, right? Federal mandate’s still in effect until at least March 18. Right. We’ll see what happens after that. Congregate care, healthcare settings, I don’t know, but I would be willing to bet in healthcare settings it may remain.  I would think so. I’m just guessing, that’s not a legal opinion. It’s not a medical opinion. That’s just a Betsy Urbance prediction.

Kelli Jessup: Okay. So, we kind of talked broadly about like what it means so let’s get down to the nitty gritty of what it could mean for our members. What advice would you give as it pertains to showing and selling houses?

Betsy Urbance: OK, I think this kind of dovetails with what we’ve been saying all along really. I mean take precautions, the indoor mask mandate isn’t in effect, but keep in mind that for a real estate broker, your place of business is in someone else’s house or someone else’s building if you’re selling commercially. So, my house, my rules, right? And that is correct. So, if a seller says to the broker, “look, you know, I’m still for whatever reason, as we said at the top of the podcast, that somebody might have very good reasons for requiring, uh, members of the public when they’re coming through their house or their, their building to, to mask up. And if that is the direction, then the broker ought to follow that direction to the letter consistently. So that is a legal request that would be made by a seller.

You can’t force a seller, you know it’s their house, or their building, depending on the circumstances. Also your own companies, if you go to a physical office where it’s a giant office with a hundred cubicles, your sponsoring broker may still have a policy. If that is the case and it’s applied consistently, then that’s the policy. Those are just some things to be mindful of. I did get a question from a broker who said, but what if I can’t wear a mask? Yes, and we talked about it a little bit before. I mean, some people cannot wear a mask for some physical reason. There are medical reasons for this.  And if there is a documented medical reason that you can’t wear a mask, then that you would have to probably balance the interest of the broker with the seller. But if the seller says, “sorry for you, but I still want masking at my house when you’re showing,” in that case it’s kind of a cruel choice situation. But the broker would probably have to see if they couldn’t get someone else to do it for them someone in their own office that could wear a mask or, uh, you know, if you’re a one-person shop, you might have to refer it out of house. If you’re going to get it shown or work something out where the listing agent can do it for you or something—we won’t even go into all the agency issues there—but you know, just that question did come up and it’s a fair question.

Jeremy Goeckner: Mask. Absolutely. And yeah. You know, all these scenarios that you’re giving us here, it just seems like still the good rule of thumb is to be just considerate, be understanding and just be kind.

Betsy Urbance: Be, be considerate, understanding, kind and consistent.

Kelli Jessup: I was going to say be consistent.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah. You’re right. There was also another question we got and we kind of talked about a little bit there, but meeting clients in headquarters—whether that’s a big brokerage or your own personal office—do you think that REALTORS® should go out of their way to ask these questions of their clients? Or is it just more of like a assume that they want, that they don’t want to wear a mask unless they tell you?

Betsy Urbance: Oh God, that’s a really good question. I would say in this environment it would be appropriate for a brokerage to have a policy requiring on your seller checklist that you would ask the preference. I don’t think it’s legally, I don’t know that you would have to but I’m always going to be the most cautious, I’m going to give you the most cautious answer. So if you want a different answer, go ask somebody who’s not as cautious, but I just think it would be a best practice to leave it on your checklist.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah, absolutely.

Kelli Jessup: That’s some good info and scenarios I didn’t really think of.

Jeremy Goeckner: I know we’re coming up with all these kinds of different things.

Kelli Jessup: We’re here all day

Betsy Urbance: Right here. Yeah.

Jeremy Goeckner: It’s a, well, I mean, we haven’t been here yeah. In a very long time. The numbers have gone down. Thank, thank goodness.

Betsy Urbance: Yeah. Let’s knock some wood.

Jeremy Goeckner: My head here. I mean, we just, we haven’t been here for a while, so this it’s good to refresh ourselves on this.

Kelli Jessup: All right. So one last question. Is there any final advice you want to give to our REALTOR® members? For example, another scenario maybe driving in cars with your clients?

Betsy Urbance: Yes, safety first. So, my first advice doesn’t have anything to do with masks at all. It’s whether or not you want to drive in cars with your clients. How well do you know them and you’ve got to be careful if you’re going to drive your clients all around again. Consistency would be become an issue if you just drive some people around and not others. So, you got to be careful there. Just be careful driving people around in cars. If you’re in your own car, it’s your rules so be consistent.

Jeremy Goeckner: Yeah.

Betsy Urbance: Again, this brave new world we’re in, is a car and indoor space?

Jeremy Goeckner: A good question, actually. I guess technically, yeah,

Betsy Urbance: It’s probably an indoor space and there are…

Jeremy Goeckner: Doors that close

Betsy Urbance: Depending where you are. You’re probably going to be in there longer too.

Jeremy Goeckner: Now, if you’re in a convertible, a totally different scenario here.

Betsy Urbance: It’s a hybrid.

Jeremy Goeckner: One of those open-air Jeeps of some sort, you know? Betsy, it’s always just so valuable having you here with us to answer these questions. Again, these are unprecedented times for the last two years, and now we’re thankfully in a down wave of COVID-19, but as always be vigilant and be on guard. I believe things can still get put in place. Even with all the lawsuits that have been happening, that I believe that the governor can still put measures on if things get worse. Correct?

Betsy Urbance: Yeah. I, I think so. I, I mean, we’ve seen it happen. Didn’t we get out of masks for like a week?

Jeremy Goeckner: I remember that somewhere.

Jeremy Goeckner: 200 years ago

Betsy Urbance: A week later it was, it was back in place. So, check CDC, check state level, check your local level, check with your clients; be consistent, you know.  I’m as sick of talking about this as everybody else is sick of hearing about it and talking about it, but it is what it is. It’s a period in history that we haven’t seen since the folks were having the Spanish flu in what was it? 1918?

Betsy Urbance: So, this is all new, you know? Hopefully it’s probably something we’re going to have to learn to live with it. That’s not my medical opinion, I’m not a doctor disclaimer.

Jeremy Goeckner: Well, there are a lot of diseases.

Jeremy Goeckner: So who knows? Either way we have the knowledge dropper, Betsy Urbance, always at our disposal. And it is always so much fun even in this setting. Talking with Betsy Urbance is always a pleasure. So once again, Betsy, thank you so much for being here.

Betsy Urbance: Y’all are kind. Thanks for having me.

Kelli Jessup: And that’s it for this week’s IR podcast. Thank you all for listening and as always give us a rating and review on your podcast app of choice. And if you want any more content, simply search for Illinois REALTORS® on your favorite social media app, we’ll see you next week.