Important Updates on COVID-19 Impact
We are dealing with unprecedented challenges. The world as we knew it just weeks ago has completely changed – things we never imagined possible are a frightening reality. Over the course of the last two weeks, we have activated business continuity plans at Ligris., and are taking extraordinary measures to protect our people, clients, referral partners, and communities.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone and every industry across the board. Real estate, by its very nature, is personal and involves communication and collaboration across multiple stakeholders. Our mortgage and banking partners are not just busy with this crisis, but dealing with historically low mortgage interest rates and new challenges that are impacting closing and settlement of loans.
At Ligris, we felt it was necessary to provide updates and information to the real estate community and our clients in an accessible platform. As such, we have set up www.ligris.com/COVID-19 – which is updated daily regarding Registry of Deeds updates, legislative proposals, and other relevant industry information.
Ligris has been working with several other real estate law firms in Greater Boston to share information. We are not surprised at the authenticity, support, and collaboration exhibited by remarkable people that manage and work at these firms.
We wanted to share some important recommendations and updates:
1. Please be extra vigilant with respect to emails. The nature of our business involves fragmented technology and communications. Criminals know this and that many people are now working from home. The safeguard of being able to walk down the hall and speak to a colleague has been disrupted and cybercriminals are looking to take advantage. Now more than ever, question everything. Pick up the phone and call people – don’t rely on signatures lines of emails. Use your contacts or search from a reliable source (like the company website or google listings). Do NOT click on links or open attachments without being extra careful. Be cautious of any COVID19 warnings to update accounts, click on links, etc.
2. In-person meetings. If you don’t need to attend – don’t. For example, unless your presence at a closing is critical, don’t attend. Instead, deliver items ahead of time or via email. Some original documents may be necessary, but check with your paralegal, attorney, or title/escrow officer. We are working with elected officials, the GBREB, brokerage leadership, other law firms, and other trade organizations and agencies to consider options for remote closings. Ligris is not allowing any non-signatories to attend closings at this time.
3. Timing is critical. Please schedule things in advance. Items that were easy to obtain in the past, may be delayed for a variety of reasons. Order required items as soon as you practically can: insurance certificates, 6(d) certificates, smoke detector inspection, etc. Be prepared for things to take longer. Track dates carefully – mortgage commitment dates and rate lock deadlines are ever so important. New construction has been halted in Boston and Cambridge – this will impact developments and estimated closing dates. Speak with clients about timing and make sure buyers are aware of this.
4. Manage expectations. You are one of the most essential stakeholders in a transaction. Managing client expectations is more important than ever. Have conversations with your clients and referral partners often. This may require that you ask your client to engage a lawyer before an offer is written – know that we are all here to help. A quick closing with a mortgage will be a challenge for at least several months. Every element of the process is dealing with delays and capacity issues.
5. Smoke Detector and CO Certificates. Massachusetts General Laws require that a seller of certain residential real estate provide a certificate of compliance with respect to smoke detectors and/or carbon monoxide detectors. Relevant hyperlinks can be found at www.ligris.com/COVID-19. Closing without a certificate is a complicated issue. For certain new construction properties, you may be able to rely on a recently issued certificate of occupancy. Certain lenders may allow a closing to occur without a certificate, but subject to certain conditions. At this time, given the fact that only a handful of fire departments have suspended testing, we are advising people to schedule inspections as soon as practical (subject to the closing schedule and certificate validity). We are monitoring this very carefully and talking to fire departments, lenders, and other lawyers.
6. Title V & Certificates of Compliance with Order of Conditions. Please continue to obtain applicable certificates to comply with Title V and/or Order of Conditions. Contact the relevant health department and/or conservation commission. If a city or town hall is closed, please contact them via email or telephone. Most municipal offices have limited their hours or are working remotely.
7. Registry of Deeds & Land Court. We are providing daily updates on the status of registry recording options. At this time, recording is occurring in almost every county in Massachusetts. We are relying heavily on e-recording. Many registry locations are no longer available for closings or are limiting the activities and people accessing the registry. We have secured GAP title insurance coverage – this allows us in MOST (not all) transactions to disburse funds before recording documents. More information about GAP coverage is available at www.ligris.com/COVID-19. The Land Court is closed to public access, as such certain transactions that require certain land court approvals may be delayed because of the need to use mail or other resources for filings sand deliveries.
8. Think Outside the Box. Issues will continue to present themselves, think creatively, and innovate. We have access to technology and resources that a decade ago did not exist. Work with each other to put deals together, keep deals together, and close deals together.
9. Take Care of Yourself and Each Other. This is a time for the real estate community to come together. Take care of each other and be responsible. Remember that nothing is more important than the health and wellbeing of each of us. We are thankful to the real estate lawyers, bankers, agents, and other professionals that are each doing their part to help keep our industry moving.
We Are Here for You
The entire team at Ligris is working tirelessly to close transactions, enact legislation, and keep everyone updated. If something comes up that needs our input, support, or opinion – call or email us. We are privileged to work with you and humbled by the trust you put in us regardless of the challenges ahead.
Real Time Updates
We will continue to update our COVID19 page.
Posted In: News