Real Estate Closings in the Midst of COVID-19





04.04.20





By Joseph DiPiazza, Esq.


New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued Executive Orders 107 and 108, effective on March 21, 2020, closing non-essential businesses in New Jersey to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19. If you are buying, selling or looking for a home, you are not alone in having questions right now. Social distancing restrictions and business closures have made it difficult for buyers and sellers to conduct a home closing. Below are some FAQ’s and answers regarding the current state of real estate transactions in New Jersey:


1. Can Buyers and Sellers still close on the purchase or sale of a home? Yes, you may continue to work and close your transactions. If an in-person closing is necessary, you must practice safe social distancing as established by the CDC. Title companies and attorneys are working closely together to implement the safest practices possible, including, for example, the use of gloves, masks, disposable pens, and disinfectants.


2. What are the options for a remote/virtual notary so parties may avoid in-person closings? New Jersey has pending legislation awaiting the Governor Murphy’s signature that will allow remote notarization. On March 18, 2020, the state legislature passed A3864/S2299. However, this bill, if signed by the Governor, will not take effect for 90 days. The requirements are as follows: a. The notarial officer must have personal knowledge of individual, satisfactory evidence of ID by a witness, or two different proofs of ID by the individual. b. The notarial officer must be able to reasonably confirm that two parties have the same document in front of them. c. The notarial officer must keep audio-visual recording of the performance of the notarial act.


3. I need a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) for a closing and my municipality is closed/not responding/postponing all inspections, what can I do? Many municipal inspectors are no longer being dispatched to properties to ensure compliance. As a result, certain municipalities are waiving the Fire Certificate and Certificate of Occupancy inspections. The New Jersey State Bar Association also sent a letter to Governor Murphy requesting a uniform, temporary waiver of these requirements.


4. Is there any guidance on obtaining fire inspection certificates? The Department of Community Affairs released new guidance for fire inspection certificates, available here.


As the changes we face due to COVID-19 are unprecedented, this situation is fluid and constantly updating. If you have any questions about your real estate transaction, please contact The Law Office of Joseph A. DiPiazza, LLC at 201-494-2800. Stay healthy and safe.