Real Estate: Key Industry to Return to Work in Phase 2 of Reopening

Image Credit: Governor Office

Brokerages may show properties, under regulation, as part of Phase 2 reopening. On June 22, 2020, New York City officially entered Phase 2 of the State’s COVID-19 reopening plan. In addition to the opening of in-person retail and sidewalk seating for restaurants, the real estate industry was a key industry permitted to reopen. This applies to residential property management companies, real estate brokers, building inspectors, appraisers and related building operators.

All businesses must develop a written Safety Plan outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19. While the plan does not need to be submitted to a state agency for approval, the plan must be located on the premises for random health inspections. To view a safety plan template, click here.

The State’s reopening guidelines for the real estate industry include mandatory practices and recommended best practices. The following paragraphs detail many of the mandatory practices, and some of the best practices, but should not be understood as superseding instructions. You should still refer to the State Health Department and the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene as the preeminent source for all COVID-19 guidance.

Physical Distancing

The physical distancing requirements are substantially similar to the six foot distance requirements mandated throughout the pandemic. Operations will be required to function at fifty percent capacity, per the certificate of occupancy, and individuals will have to maintain six feet distance within the premises. Beyond just office purposes, these requirements apply to cleaning, maintenance, measurements for appraisals, and unit inspections. In situations where salespeople, workers, subcontractors and vendors come within six feet of another individual, they are required to wear a face covering. These various real estate related businesses will also be required to limit in-person gathering and modify seating areas to afford for six feet of social distancing.


Employers will have to provide workers with acceptable face coverings, at no cost to the workers or contractors, and have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment in case they need to be replaced. Businesses must also commit to training workers on how to wear and take off personal protective equipment, and vigilantly remind them to wear their equipment on the job and on premises. Businesses must limit the sharing of objects like tools, laptops, touch screens and writing utensils, require workers to wear gloves when in contact with shared objects, and require workers to practice clean hygiene.

Recommended best practice include wearing face coverings in shared spaces when, a minimum of six feet is not possible. This includes lobby corridors, elevators and apartment units. Businesses should rearrange workstations to be six feet apart, enable the use of stairs, and consider the use of physical barriers like cubicle walls and plexiglass. Businesses should also consider shuttering common indoor and outdoor seating and prohibiting the use of small spaces by more than one individual at a time.


Businesses should adhere to the hygiene, cleaning and disinfection requirements mandated by the CDC and State Department of Health, and maintain cleaning logs on site. Offices should also provide and maintain hand hygiene stations, which must have soap, warm water, disposable paper towels and hand sanitizers containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Workstations, shared surfaces, equipment and tools should be regularly cleaned and disinfected and those station must be rigorously cleaned at the end of any day or shift.

If a shared space was used by a sick worker, the business must shutdown and disinfect the space. This includes elevators, lobbies and entrances. Business must also prohibit the use of shared coffee pots or other food and beverages amenities, shared by the residents and workers.

Residential Property Showings

Showings are only allowed in unoccupied or vacant properties. Most simply, this means that the owner or lessee cannot be inside the premises in the midst of a showing. Individuals visiting a property must wear face coverings at all times, and brokers are required to replace or disinfect gloves after every showing, and clean and disinfect all high touch surfaces like handrails and doorknobs. Showings must be staggered to avoid congregation of people outside the property.

While not required, best practices for showings include wearing gloves and shoe-covers, and providing one’s clients face coverings. The guidance also advises sellers/lessees to open all necessary doors, cabinets and turn on light switches to ensure minimal touching of surfaces. Brokers should limit showing common building amenities like gym, roof deck and pools, and owners should encourage only one party to be allowed inside a property at a time. One party includes building inspectors, home appraisers, photographers or stagers, not just interested renters or purchasers. Brokerages should also attempt to limit their salespeople from driving in the same car as the prospective buyers or tenants.  Where possible, the guidelines encourage brokerages to use remote walk throughs as well.

Signage and Screening

Businesses must post signage inside and outside the office location to remind personnel and customers to adhere to the social distancing rules, use personal protective equipment, mind their hygiene and follow the cleaning and disinfection protocols. Businesses should also develop a communications plan for their employees and customers. The State recommends doing this through web postings, texts, emails and social media campaigns, and encouraging individuals to inform themselves of state and local health guidance.  Businesses must also notify state and local health departments of any employee’s positive COVID-19 test result.

If not totally obvious, employees who are sick, or become sick at work, should return home. Businesses must also implement mandatory screening practices such as questionnaires and temperature checks. Any employee with a positive screening should not be allowed to enter the premises and should be sent home with instructions to contact their healthcare provider.

Rory Golod, President of Compass’s New York Region said, “At Compass, the health and safety of our agents, employees, and customers are paramount importance. As New York City enters phase two of reopening, our agents are able to leverage the technology and marketing platform we have built to help them efficiently and safely service their clients.

For full guidance and instructions click here. The City expects to enter Phase 3 on July 6, 2020, but guidance for the real estate industry is not expected to change.

For New York City-specific COVID-19 updates, the City established an information site with updates from all major administrative agencies. Agencies include the Department of Buildings, City Planning, Citywide Administrative Services, the Department of Finance and the Department of Transportation among others. You can find that page here.

By: Jason Rogovich (Jason Rogovich is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019)




One thought on “Real Estate: Key Industry to Return to Work in Phase 2 of Reopening

  1. Glad to hear New York has moved to Phase 2 and taking much precautions when going back to work in the office environment or showing real estate. These are all great practices to avoid Covid from spreading.

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