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Real estate agents' in-person home showings spur 'education' by state

New York officials did not identify the agents

New York officials did not identify the agents or brokerages that were the subject of complaints; above, a neighborhood in Elmont. Credit: Newsday/John Keating

New York has received complaints about four real estate agents on Long Island conducting in-person home showings in violation of rules intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and the state has contacted the brokerages to “seek compliance,” officials said Thursday.

The New York Department of State said it has received 17 complaints statewide about real estate agents violating the executive order prohibiting nonessential work, including the four agents on Long Island.

The department "has contacted the companies regarding the complaints to ensure they are following the Executive Order and are in compliance," state officials said in a statement.  "During this unprecedented public health crisis, our agency is working to educate the licensees and seek compliance in the first instance, rather than assess penalties."

State officials declined to identify the agents or brokerages that were the subject of complaints, saying they do not comment on open investigations.

Doing an in-person showing of a home could violate the state’s public health law and expose agents to fines of up to $1,000 per day by the state Department of Health, state officials said. It could also result in separate fines of up to $1,000 and possible license suspension or revocation by the Department of State, which oversees real estate agents and brokers, state officials said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s order shutting down nonessential work, including in-person home showings by real estate agents and brokers, took effect March 22. On April 2, the state allowed real estate agents, inspectors and appraisers to resume work, but only in their offices or online.

Matthew Arnold, president of the Long Island Board of Realtors, said in a statement that the group "strongly supports strict health and safety protocols in any re-opening plan so that our members can provide a safe homebuying experience to consumers."

Duncan MacKenzie, CEO of the New York State Association of Realtors, said in a statement that there had been a “near total absence of clear guidance” from the state to agents and brokers. He said, “It is not surprising that allegations of not following the executive orders have occurred. Since licensees have been left to interpret the government’s intent, and attorneys have provided different opinions to real estate licensees, it is only reasonable that the state’s response is educational and not punitive.”

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