Governor Walz's Latest Executive Orders (EO 20-54, EO 20-55, and EO 20-56)

How do the latest orders impact open houses?

Added 5/18

Customer-Facing Businesses: All non-critical businesses that are customer facing (i.e. business that have in-person customer interactions) must include additional Plan provisions to keep the public and workers safe as set forth in the Plan Guidance.

Note that there are no direct government guidelines provided for real estate practitioners that intend to have general customer facing business interactions like open houses.  Thus, you will need to infer what provisions of DEED’s Plan Guidance may apply to your business practice in the event you and your client determine that a customer facing open house is necessary to facilitate a real estate transaction at this time.

Please see the “MNR Open House Considerations Memo” for more details. 

How does the latest orders impact the facilitation of real estate transactions?

Added 5/18

On May 13th, Governor Walz indicated that he will be ending the “Stay at Home” order (EO 20-48) for Minnesotans effective at 11:59 PM on May 17, 2020.  Many members are assuming, incorrectly, that this means it is back to business as usual. The Governors new order (EO 20-56), effective from 11:59 PM on May 17, 2020 through 11:59 pm on May 31, 2020, states that businesses whose workers qualified for a Critical Sector exemption in EO 20-48 may continue to operate in the same manner as provided in order 20-48. 

REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS EXEMPT: Real estate transactions have remained on the governor’s list of Critical Sector work. This category is limited to workers who facilitate and finance real estate transactions and real estate services, including appraisers and title services. All workers and personnel facilitating and financing real estate transactions are exempt from the prohibition to Stay at Home if they cannot do telework or virtual work at their home or residence and/or perform work that can only be done outside their home or residence. 

Under EO 20-48, critical workers must follow these restrictions and requirements:

  1. Travel Restriction: Critical worker exemptions apply ONLY to travel to and from an individual’s home or residence and place of work.  (This includes driving to and from daycare or school.)
  2. Cannot Be Done at Home: They also apply ONLY when an individual’s performance of work duties CANNOT be done at their homes or residence;
  3. Must Follow Guidelines:  Any facilitation of real estate transactions must be done to the maximum extent possible, in a manner that adheres to the MN Occupational Safety and Health Standards and the MN Department of Health (“MDH Guidelines”) and CDC Guidelines related to COVID-19.

How does EO 20-54 protect workers from unsafe working conditions and retaliation during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency?

Added 5/18

Workers whose jobs place them in regular proximity to co-workers or require regular engagement with the public are at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure. Workers with increased risk of exposure also have an increased risk of transmitting the virus to others. To protect workers the Governor ordered as follows:
  • No discrimination for expressing concerns. Employers must not discriminate or retaliate in any way against a worker communicating orally or in writing with management personnel about occupational safety or health matters related to COVID-19, including asking questions or expressing concerns (See MN Stat. 654, Subd. 9 and C.F.R. title 29, section 1977.9(c).)
  • No discrimination for wearing PPE. Employers must not discriminate or retaliate in any way against any worker for wearing gloves, a cloth face covering, eye protection, or other protective gear which the worker has personally procured and reasonable believes will protect them, their coworkers or the public against COVID-19 in the course of their work provided the gear does not violate industry standards or existing employer policies related to health, safety, or decency.
  • Right to refuse to work. Workers have the right to refuse to work under conditions they reasonably believe present an imminent danger of death or serious physical harm.  Employers may not discriminate or retaliate in any way. (See MN Stat. 654, Subd. 11)
  • Right to request DLI conduct a workplace inspection. Workers have the right to request the DLI conduct an inspection of their workplace if they believe that a violation of safety or health standard that threatens physical harm exists or that an imminent danger exists. Employers may not discriminate or retaliate in any way. (See MN Stat. 654, Subds. 8 and 9)
  • DLI enforcement. DLI has authority to receive complaints and enforce the above provisions including awards of backpay and compensatory damages. (See MN Stat. 669)
  • Unemployment insurance benefit eligibility. Any worker who quits their employment because the employer failed to correct an adverse work condition related to the pandemic which would compel an average, reasonable worker to quit after worker has complained and given employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the adverse work condition and was retaliatorily terminated by the employer will not lose unemployment insurance eligibility.  This includes the failure of an employer to develop or implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan as required in applicable Executive Orders.

EO 20-55 Protecting the Rights and Health of At-Risk Populations. Governor Walz also issued Executive Order 20-55 that outlines how to protect the rights and health of at-risk populations. As businesses reopen and some restrictions on movement have been relaxed, the Governor has urged we continue our efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the most vulnerable Minnesotans.  There are numerous provisions in this EO however following are provisions pertinent to your business:

  • At-Risk Individuals: Defines “at-risk” persons as individuals who are:
    • 65 years and older.
    • Living in a nursing home or a long-term care facility, as defined by the Commissioner of Health.
    • Any age with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including:
      • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
      • People who have serious heart conditions.
      • People who are immunocompromised (caused by cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, or prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications).
      • People with severe obesity (body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher).
      • People with diabetes.
      • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis.
      • People with liver disease.
  • Accommodations for at-risk persons. It orders the Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development to issue guidance for private and public businesses to provide accommodations to at-risk customers by adjusting times, services, and manner of delivering goods and services to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection.

Please check the DEED website for further developments on this order as there was no published guidance at time of posting this information.

How does the latest orders impact non-critical workers and businesses safely returning to work?

Added 5/18

EO 20-56 contains the following pertinent provisions that may affect your real estate business:

  • Continue to work from home whenever possible. Any worker who can work from home must do so.
  • Non-Critical Businesses. A Non-Critical Business choosing to open or remain open must establish and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan. Please see our QA on “Where can I find information on implementing a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan for returning to work?” for further details.
  • Customer-Facing Businesses: All non-critical businesses that are customer facing (i.e. business that have in-person customer interactions) must include additional Plan provisions to keep the public and workers safe as set forth in the Plan Guidance.

Note that there are no direct government guidelines provided for real estate practitioners that intend to have general customer facing business interactions like open houses.  Thus, you will need to infer what provisions of DEED’s Plan Guidance may apply to your business practice in the event you and your client determine that a customer facing open house is necessary to facilitate a real estate transaction at this time. Please see our memo “OPEN HOUSE CONSIDERATIONS DURING COVID-19” and “Ofor further details.

How does EO 20-56 impact the activities of Minnesotans?

Added 5/18

  • Masks and face covering strongly encouraged. All Minnesotans are strongly encouraged to wear cloth face covering when they leave their homes to any public setting where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain and follow MDH and CDC face covering guidelines. 
  • At-risk persons. All Minnesotans who are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are strongly urged to stay at home or in their place of residence and follow the provisions of EO 20-55.
  • Activities Outside of the Home.
    • Minnesotans must continue to limit social interactions but may leave home for activities subject to certain requirements and guidelines.
    • Guidelines: If you are engaging in activities outside of the home you must follow the requirements of EO 20-56 , MDH and CDC If you are engaging in outdoor activities, you must follow DNR and MDH outdoor recreation guidelines.
  • Unnecessary travel strongly discouraged. Minnesotan’s are still strongly discouraged from engaging in unnecessary travel.
  • Gatherings. All gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. (“gatherings” are groups of individuals, who are not members of the same household, congregated together for a common or coordinated social, civic, community, faith-based, leisure, or recreational purpose, even if social distancing can be maintained. 

Business Practices

Where can I find information on implementing a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan for returning to work?

Updated 5/18

A Non-Critical Exempt Business must establish and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan (“Plan”).  (See MN DEED’s optional COVID-19 Preparedness Plan template and Guidance Checklist.) Each Plan must provide for the implementation of MN OSHA Standards and MDH and CDC Guidelines in their workplaces.  The requirements of the Plan can be obtained from guidance published by DEED and DLI (“Plan Guidance”)

The Plan, at a minimum, must include the following:

  1. Require work from home whenever possible. All Plans must ensure that all workers who can work from home continue to do so.
  2. Ensure that sick workers stay home. All Plans must establish policies and procedures, including health screenings, that prevent sick workers from entering the workplace.
  3. Social distancing. All Plans must establish social distancing policies and procedures.
  4. Worker hygiene and source control. All Plans must establish hygiene and source control policies for workers.
  5. Cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation protocols. All Plans must establish cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation protocols for areas within the workplace.

Additionally, Non-Critical Exempt Businesses must:

  1. Certification and Signature. Obtain a signature and certification from senior management responsible for implementing the Plan affirming their commitment to implement and follow the Plan.
  2. Disseminate and Post. Provide its Plan, in writing, to all workers.  The Plan must be posted at all of the business’s workplaces in locations that will allow for the Plan to be readily reviewed by all workers. This does allow for electronic posting so long as the Plan remains available for their review.
  3. Training: Ensure training is provided to workers on the contents of the Plan and required procedures. The training must be easy to understand and available in appropriate language and literacy level for all workers so they understand and are able to perform the precautions necessary to protect themselves and co-workers. Business must take steps to supervise workers to ensure adherence to the Plan.  Business must maintain documentation demonstrating compliance with the training and make it available to DLI upon request.
  4. Compliance: Workers and management must work together to ensure compliance with the Plan, implement all protocols, policies, and procedures and create a safe and healthy work environment.
  5. Availability to regulatory authorities and public safety officers. Plans do not need to be submitted for pre-approval however, business must make their Plans available to authorities upon request.

I am receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits; what happens to those benefits if I were to close on a transaction?

Added 5/6

Unemployment (UI) & Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefit eligibility is determined on a weekly basis. You may be eligible for benefits some weeks while working as a self-employed individual and ineligible during others when you received income. Requests for benefit payments are done weekly and are always for the previous week. If you received income in the week prior to which you are applying for benefit payments, simply report the amount on your payment request. You may be eligible for reduced PUA benefits or none at all depending on how much you earned the previous week.

Please see DEED’s information pages on PUA & UI eligibility while working:

Can I ask prospective buyers to fill out health-status and travel questionnaires before they can view a property?

Added 4/24

There is currently nothing that would prohibit a broker from asking these questions, however if you choose to implement such a questionnaire, please consider the following:

  1. Asking all prospective buyers the same questions to ensure Fair Housing laws are not violated.
  2. The purpose of the questionnaire. If the purpose of the questionnaire is for your client to rely on the answers to screen out anyone who might be contagious with COVID-19, you should be aware that such a questionnaire will likely miss a significant number of potentially contagious people who are not showing any signs or symptoms.
  3. Determining how you will handle showing rejections based on the answers to the questions and implement them consistently.
  4. Creating a policy for protecting and permanently disposing of the personal health and travel information you have gathered on individuals.

You may want to consider speaking with your legal counsel about the pros and cons of adopting such a questionnaire, especially since the CDC is cautioning that such questions could create stigma for certain groups of people resulting in denial of housing and other critical services.

Instead of posing these personal health/travel questions that might lead to discrimination or stigma, an alternative might be to: Utilize signage on the property asking anyone with a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing or anyone in close contact with someone with symptoms to refrain from entering the property. The MDH has materials and resources that can be utilized by the general public, including signs.

Provide clients with accurate information about how the virus spreads and implement other measures to prevent transmission, such as wearing a cloth mouth covering, cleaning hands before and after entry, no touching anything in the property, limiting the number of people allowed in the property at any one time, no gathering in small areas, and frequent and thorough cleaning of surfaces after showings.

Can my seller or I require clients or customers to wear a mask during showings?

Added 4/24

The CDC now recommends wearing simple cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain however, it is not required by law. If brokers and their clients intend to require this measure as a condition of showing property, it should be implemented consistently with all clients or customers.

Is unemployment compensation taxable?

Added 4/24

Yes, it's taxable. The Minnesota Unemployment Insurance website says they will withhold taxes on the extra $600.

My seller client got COVID-19 and is blaming it on the showings?

Added 4/24

The Minnesota Realtors’® listing contract currently includes language limiting the broker’s liability against claims of damage, loss or injury that arise from marketing the seller’s property. The MN REALTORS® Forms Committee reviewed this provision and determined it was sufficient for the current circumstances and felt it was unnecessary to add any additional language to the listing contract specifically pertaining to COVID-19. It is important to remember that all REALTORS® should follow the public health guidelines provided by the MN Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control as required as a Critical Sector Worker outlined in Governor Walz’s Executive Order 20-48.

Will license renewal be impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic?

Updated 3/31

The real estate license renewal application window opens on May 1 and applications are submitted online. The deadline is June 30. The Minnesota Department of Commerce strongly urges real estate licensees to work with their brokers to complete renewal requirements and renew their licenses at the earliest opportunity. Please refer to the Department of Commerce website for the latest information for licensees and regulated entities.

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

Updated 3/31

Both the federal and state legislatures have been working on financial assistance packages to assist individuals who become unemployed due to the pandemic. The details for eligibility are still being determined. For immediate assistance, please refer to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Should Realtors® continue to hold open houses?

Updated 5/7

No. The Stay at Home Executive Order does not allow open houses. Once the order is lifted, Minnesota Realtors® strongly recommends that open houses are suspended through the end of the Stay at Home order (EO 20-48), consistent with the federal extension of social distancing guidelines. We do not issue this direction without having researched how these activities can spread the virus.

For the well-being of clients, customers and communities, we urge all real estate licensees stop conducting open houses until the pandemic warnings have ended. Now is a great time to leverage alternative marketing opportunities and let your clients know that you will continue to service them and can market their home using virtual tours, Skype or Facebook, in addition to virtual staging for showcasing a property.

How should Realtors® handle showings?

Updated 3/31

Showings should be limited to virtual showings when possible and in-person showings only when absolutely necessary.  Social distancing guidelines must be followed. Please see the Q&A regarding Governor Walz’s Stay at Home Order to determine if and how to do showings. Discuss with your clients the pros and cons of having showings continue during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the CDC, the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this disease.

Virtual showings and tours are a great alternative for showing consumers a home’s features. Many Realtors® are using this technology to take buyers on a virtual journey and confirm serious interest in a property before ever walking in the door. Others are providing detailed smart phone videos or using live video chats to walk buyers through a property. Options that minimize or eliminate person-to-person contact are the safest choices.

If you decide to show homes, there are precautions Realtors® can consider taking during private showings to try to reduce, not eliminate, the chances of spreading or contracting the virus. Please consider taking these additional precautions for showings: 

  • Limit your showings until the consumer expresses interest and prioritize virtual showings and other non-person-to-person activities.
  • Utilize the virtual tours and photos available to pre-screen homes you personally visit.
  • Be mindful of high-risk populations such as the elderly and immunocompromised individuals. This group is better served through virtual activities.
  • Licensees can inquire with clients who want to view a property that they are not sick, have not traveled to other countries, or come in contact with someone with the virus. You must ask every client/customer these questions to avoid potentially violating discrimination laws.
  • Anyone that shows signs of illness such as sneezing, cough, or fever should not attend the viewing, including the agent(s). Note however, that this disease can be spread by individuals who have COIVD-19 but do not have symptoms.
  • Drive in separate vehicles to the properties.
  • Implement social distancing – six feet apart – at all times with the clients or customers.
  • Keep clients and customers in sight as they view the home and accompany them room by room.
  • Realtors® should ask their clients and customers not to touch anything in the home. “Hands in your pocket” rule. 
  • Realtors® should consider using new disposable gloves for each showing to open all doors for the clients, switch on/off lights and open appliances or cabinet doors with the gloved hand and discard the gloves upon exiting.
  • When feasible, request sellers to switch all lights on for a showing and for them to be left on until they arrive.
  • Limit the number of guests and allow only the prospective buyer(s) to enter the home. No additional guests or family members.
  • Inspections should be conducted by the inspector only.
  • Thoroughly wash hands or use hand sanitizer before entering and after exiting the property. 
  • Avoid overlapping showings.  Allowing only one party in the home at a time will help maintain social distancing (six feet apart).  

Is it a material fact requiring disclosure if a seller client was diagnosed with COVID-19 or has had contact with someone who has?

Added 3/31

These are unprecedented times. The health and safety of individuals should remain the highest priority.

Licensees and sellers of single-family residential property are required to disclose all material facts of which they are aware that could significantly and adversely affect a buyer’s use or enjoyment of the property. Although there is no specific list of items that are considered “material facts,” there is some precedence that a licensee cannot disclose the status of a person with a communicable disease. (See M.S.  82.68, Subd. 3) Similarly, the CDC has advised employers not to disclose employees who have been diagnosed with COVID 19.

In these uncertain times, it is important for you to consult your personal legal counsel and your seller client to determine the risks of disclosure versus nondisclosure and then decide what is the best course of action for your particular circumstance.

What should I do if a tenant refuses to allow the landlord to show the property?

Updated 3/31

Please see the above question: What does the eviction suspension and execution of writs of recovery mean?. In normal times, Minn. Stat. § 504B.211 allows a landlord to enter the property to show it with reasonable notice – not permission. However, please note that Governor Walz (MN) issued an order, effective March 24, 2020 at 5:00 PM, suspending evictions, so landlords may not commence an eviction as a remedy against tenants who are in violation of their lease for excluding a landlord’s rightful entry and/or tenants who continue to occupy a premises past a lease expiration during the peacetime emergency or until the governor revokes his order.

Additionally, Realtors®, and the landlords they represent, need to balance this right to show the property with their covenant obligations under Minn. Stat. 504B.161. The law states the landlord must maintain the premises in compliance with applicable state and local health and safety laws where the premises are located during the term of the lease. Realtors® should monitor and follow recommendations of the MDH’s guidance for all Minnesotans, the CDC, and The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America.  Please also note that Realtors® and landlords should not forcibly enter a premise under ordinary circumstances, and so if a tenant has resisted the entry, the Realtor® or landlord should consult with legal counsel regarding alternative remedies.  

These recommendations are changing on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis. In light of the them, you may want to consider working with the tenant to provide some reassurance and comfort to avoid further issues. You could discuss options like:

  • Virtual showings;
  • Ensuring there are preventive measures taken before anyone views the property such as hand washing and usage of hand-sanitizer;
  • Refraining from showing the property if the tenant, prospective tenant, or anyone else intending to be at the showing is showing signs of illness; or
  • Postponing showings for tenants or prospective tenants who are in a high-risk group.

What happens if a tenant can't vacate due to the pandemic?

Updated 3/31

During the term of Governor Walz’s Stay at Home Order, landlords cannot terminate a residential lease or evict a tenant who has a substantial decrease in income or out-of-pocket medical expenses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

MNR Services

Will the MNR office be open?

Added 3/17

While the office will not be physically open, we are operating a virtual office environment with normal office hours. Please reach out to the appropriate staff member with your questions.

What services will be impacted by the virtual office?

Added 3/17

MNR will be able to conduct most services virtually:

  • Meetings will be held using Zoom technology
  • The Legal Hotline will take calls as usual during regular hotline hours
  • The Legal Team is looking at providing alternative solutions to hearings 
  • The Governmental Affairs team will be working with the Capitol as they can during this time
  • The Communications team will keep you informed via email, the website, and social media

Is the MN Realtors® going to draft an addendum to the representation and facilitator contracts to indemnify brokers for COVID-19 related illness for brokerages who continue to show properties?

Added 3/31

The MN REALTORS® is not intending to adopt any indemnification language specific to COVID-19 at this time.  The MN REALTORS® Listing Contract already contains indemnification language on lines 217-222, which states in pertinent part:

“Seller agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Broker from any and all claims or liability related to damage or loss to the Property or its contents, or any injury to persons in connection with the marketing of the Property. Indemnification by Seller shall not apply if the damage, loss, or injury is the result of the gross negligence or willful misconduct of the Broker.”

Can my brokerage still access the legal hotline?

Updated 5/7

The Legal Hotline is available Monday through Friday from 9am – 12pm and 1pm – 4pm (CST) with our lawyers on standby ready to answer your questions.

Online Submission: Brokers and office managers can also submit Legal Hotline questions online anytime, 24/7. Your query will be forwarded to a staff attorney who will respond as soon as possible or, if submitted after hours, the next business day. Click here for more information on the Legal Hotline.

Where else can I get CE courses?

Updated 3/17

You can take a variety of online CE courses that you can take through Continuing Ed Express, including GRI courses, the DOC-required module, and other CE opportunities. At this time, is is not clear when in-person classes will resume, so we encourage you take advantage of the online course offerings.

Will the lobbying efforts at the Capitol continue?

Added 3/17

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the Legislature is dramatically scaling back operations at the Capitol.  All regularly scheduled committee meetings have been cancelled and the Legislature will be going on an extended recess until April 14.  Legislative Leaders also announced a narrowing of the work for the remainder of the Session that will focus on:

  • The state's COVID-19 response
  • "Mission critical" measures for state, such as a bonding bill
  • Any legislation that has bipartisan agreement

Despite the lack of face-to-face access with legislators, MN Realtors® lobbying team will continue meeting by phone and via other virtual forms of electronic communication to represent the interests of our members.