BALTIMORE — Maryland REALTORS, a trade association representing real estate professionals in the state, is seeking guidance from the governor on how to balance a landlord’s interest in showing a property and a tenant's desire to keep strangers out during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most renters have in their lease agreements that landlords can show the property as they near the end of their rental term, however, Evan Taylor doesn't think the contract clause should take priority over his health.
"Why have all of this risk? Why risk death? Why risk people getting sick just to ensure receiving two months of continual lease payments? It just seems a little out of balance to me," Taylor said.
On Thursday, Maryland REALTORS sent Sofastaii a statement asking for guidance from the governor on this particular situation:
"Tenants, like all Marylanders, are being encouraged to stay at home to minimize the risk of spreading or being exposed to the virus. In other words, while a tenant may not normally prevent a landlord from showing a property in connection with a sale or lease expiration, we are in a unique situation where the “normal” rules may not apply."
Maryland REALTORS issued best practices for realtors including scheduling showings by appointment only, limiting the number of people at any property to only three, including the agent, and having everyone follow physical distancing guidelines by remaining at least six feet apart at all times.
"We have a little different set of circumstances if you’re selling your house. You own it, you can determine as the seller you don’t want showings, I do want showings. For a tenant, they have an agreement in writing that says they will cooperate at reasonable times. Now, there’s where a court decision would probably be made. Was it reasonable? And that’s what we need to do. We’re all under the same governor’s order to stay home and shelter-in-place as much as possible," said Harrison.
In states, such as Colorado, the Attorney General has interpreted their governor's stay-at-home order to not include in-person showings or open houses as a critical or essential service.
Harrison said in Maryland, there is no definitive answer.
"Some states, their Attorneys General have made a ruling as to what tenants and landlords can and can’t do. Ours has not as of yet," Harrison said.
Sofastaii reached out to Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh's Office. She was told the governor provides guidance in this situation.
"Because the COVID orders are coming from the Governor's office, not the AG's, that office is responsible for also providing the guidance," a spokeswoman wrote.
Sofastaii then asked the governor's office for clarification. A spokeswoman wrote: "The realtors are the experts, and we welcome a proposal from them that reflects their commitment to the health and safety of the community."
Maryland REALTORS stated they are not a regulatory agency and will continue to seek guidance from the governor’s office for best practices as it relates to this pandemic.
Sofastaii reached out to the governor's office once again, and is waiting to hear back. This story will be updated with their response.