Thursday, April 02, 2020

“Unemployment on Steroids”: Cares Act Extends Unemployment Coverage to Independent Contractors and Provides an Additional $600 to Individuals Receiving NYS Benefits

In response to many workers losing their jobs as a result of COVID-19, the federal government is providing unemployment insurance assistance in addition to what is currently offered by the States. Some members of Congress aptly referred to the new law as “unemployment on steroids.” The law provides the following additional unemployment insurance benefits:
  • Extends eligibility to independent contractors, individuals who are self-employed, or cannot work (individuals who can telework are not covered) for a reason directly related to COVID-19. In order to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance ("PUA"), you must first apply and be determined ineligible to receive New York State unemployment insurance benefits.
  • Provides an additional $600 a week to all individuals receiving State unemployment insurance benefits. In New York State, if you are receiving the minimum benefits, the maximum benefits ($504 per week) or somewhere in between, you will receive an additional $600 per week. The federal benefits are retroactive to January 27, 2020 and expires on July 31, 2020. It is unclear from the information currently available whether you are entitled to the additional $600 if you are receiving partial unemployment benefits from New York State (hours/salary are reduced by employer).
  • Provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits (NYS currently offers 26 weeks of unemployment benefits).

According to NYSAR - Real Estate Brokers Can Conduct Showings - What Are Your Business Ethics?

According to NYSAR, Empire State Development clarified that "[t]he following functions of real estate and/or realtors (sic) are considered essential: residential home and commercial office showings; home inspections; and residential appraisers."

Now that it's permissible, the question turns to whether real estate salespersons / associate brokers should be conducting showings?

This is the biggest ethical question for real estate brokers today.

Ironically, Lieb School is in the midst of creating a new CE course on ethical business practices, which is a required course for license renewal on and after 7/1/2021. We are now incorporating this situation into the course as a case study for our students to determine their own business ethics in real estate brokerage.

Unlike laws, business ethics refers to appropriate business practices on controversial subjects that are driven by moral concerns. Showing a house during the coronavirus pandemic is a practice that needs to be driven by your moral concerns.

When it comes to morals and values there is not a one size fits all answer to any question. This is the answer that I gave to a friend in response to his text requesting my take on the fact that "realtors were just declared essential services:"
It's not on the empire state development webpage so it's probably a responsive email to a clarification request from NYSAR. We got one today that my law firm can do in- person closings. That being said, we are trying to avoid them at all costs and have our office working remotely. It's good and bad that the clarification was issued. It's good that smart brokers are authorized to help people in need, but it unfortunately gives permission to the idiots in our industry to spread coronavirus and put their lives and the lives of others in jeopardy all for a dollar. I would not show a senior's house if they live there. I would not show an immunocompromised person's house if they live there. I would not do public open houses. I would limit my in-person contact to the extent necessary while always wearing PPE. If not for the business ethics that require it, at least for the fact that I refuse to bring coronavirus to my family. We will get through this, but we must be smart and pick health over money at each turn for money without health is useless. Stay safe my friend.
If you would like to further explore this topic, we have a special guest on our radio show this Sunday at noon on WRCN (FM 103.9) - - (LI News Radio).

Stay safe my friends.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

LIEB Permitted to Close Real Estate Deals by NYS

On April 2, 2020 we received word from NYS Empire State Development that "[r]eal estate law practices are deemed essential if it is necessary to be in-person to do the work."

LIEB can close your deals in-person. 

Make no mistake, we are a leader in remote closings, but sometimes lenders and title underwriters won't permit such a closing and we have been struggling to find a solution. So, rather than guessing, we made request of the Empire State Development to tell us. This is something every business must do before acting because the penalties are outrageous for non-compliance

We just got our answer and we are already scheduling closings. 

Some people might say that this is a terrible move for a public health advocate. However, my favorite professor during my Master's program taught me to never ignore any of the dimensions of health while only focusing on physical health. Yes, the physical dimension is important. Yet, one can never ignore the spiritual, emotional, social and mental dimensions as well. To that end, there are people who need to close their real estate deal to be healthy. They may be living in limbo with no place to go, there can be financial stress of continued home ownership, there could be too many people occupying one space, or a plethora of other reasons that a closing is necessary.

Remember not to judge someone else's circumstances. 

We will be sure to keep social distance and avoid any gatherings to never forget the physical health needs of our team, our clients and ever other individual who is involved in our closing process.

It's Fair Housing Month - Coronavirus Discrimination Must Stop

Equal rights to housing is particularly important during this quarantine. 

A quarantine can be a very different experience dependent on your housing situation. Some people are sharing a bathroom with ten others while others are navigating between their indoor pool and their gym. Some have country homes to escape the city while others must walk stairwells infested with COVID-19. This is our current reality as a society. 

Make no mistake, in our capitalist society these differences should not only be accepted, but celebrated. Yet, these differences can only be caused by economic differences, not based upon the way we stigmatize people as a result of their demographic characteristics. 

Unfortunately, not everyone is observing the law today. According to the CDC, "fear and anxiety about a disease can lead to social stigma toward people, places, or things." In fact, the CDC has identified individuals of "Asian descent" as the current victims of stigma during the coronavirus pandemic. Let's change that starting today. 

Today is the start of Fair Housing Month. According to HUD, Fair Housing Month is a time to come together "as a community and a nation to celebrate the anniversary of the passing of the Fair Housing Act and recommit to that goal which inspired us in the aftermath of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in 1968: to eliminate housing discrimination and create equal opportunity in every community.”

We should do it. We can do it. We must do it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Executing a New Will While in Quarantine? Avoid Will Deals That Seem too Good to be True

COVID-19 uncertainty is causing many people to rethink their wills and advanced directives.

With the acceptance of video notarization, which we blogged about HERE, many attorneys are advertising remote will execution ceremonies that remove the traditional requirement that the testator execute their will in a room with two witnesses and an attorney. The seeming ease of a remote will execution has caused a race to the bottom as attorneys compete on price for business. Things have gotten so desperate that I've seen an attorney advertise a will for $100.00. Is it too good to be true?

While the availability of remote notarization does make remote will execution ceremonies possible, it is important not to forget the fundamental requirements of a will signing. If your will is rejected by the Surrogate's Court because you failed to conform to the requirements of EPTL §3-2.1 all of your estate planning and forward thinking may have been for nothing. Avoid the nightmare scenario of your well-intentioned plans falling apart. 

The following is a list of some considerations which your attorney should be addressing when deciding how they are going to conduct a remote will execution ceremony:
    1. Your attorney must draft a will that conforms to your intentions.
    2. You must execute your will in the presence of two witnesses, or your signature must be acknowledged to the witnesses after it has already been affixed. Your remote execution procedure must qualify as "in the presence of". 
    3. Your witnesses must sign the will itself within thirty days of one another. 
    4. Your witnesses should sign affidavits attesting to the proper execution of your will. 
    5. Your attorney should sign an attorney draftsman's affidavit. 
    6. Your witnesses' affidavits should be notarized, and your attorney draftsman's affidavit should be notarized. 
    7. Your original signature, the witnesses' original signatures, the attorney draftsman's original signature, and the notary's original signatures should all be combined into one original document which can be presented for probate. 

If you think your attorney can do all of that for $100.00, it's probably too good to be true.