Empire State Development Modifies Guidance on In-Person Real Estate Activities

Client Advisory

April 10, 2020

On April 9, 2020, Empire State Development (“ESD”) issued guidance modifying the opinion it delivered on April 1 to the New York State Association of Realtors regarding the types of essential real estate activities that may continue pursuant to New York State’s Executive Order 202.6, as modified by Executive Order 202.13.

In accordance with ESD’s April 9th guidance, and effective immediately, all real estate services during the COVID-19 emergency must be conducted remotely, including but not limited to:

  • Title searches;
  • Appraisals;
  • Permitting;
  • Inspections; and
  • The recordation, legal, financial and other services necessary to complete a transfer of real property.

Notably, ESD carved out an exception to its requirement that all activities be conducted remotely by permitting in-person real estate functions to the extent “legally necessary.” However, any “legally necessary” activities conducted in-person still must be conducted in accordance with all social distancing and cleaning/disinfecting protocols. ESD clarified that nothing in its guidance permits “brokerage and branch offices to remain open to the general public (i.e. not clients).”

Unfortunately, the term “legally necessary” is not defined. Given the ambiguity, real estate professionals should proceed cautiously with any in-person activities. A cautious approach is especially prudent given New York’s clear goal of limiting all in-person activities to the greatest extent possible. If it is unclear whether an activity may be conducted in-person, please contact a member of the Carter Ledyard COVID-19 Response Group, or your regular Carter Ledyard attorney to discuss.

The applicable rules and regulations during the COVID-19 emergency continue changing on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. The Carter Ledyard COVID-19 Response Group is monitoring developments in this area and will continue providing updates as the situation evolves.

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For more information concerning the matters discussed in this publication, please contact the authors Rocco M. Sainato (212-238-8868,, Michael H. Bauscher (212-238-8785,, or your regular Carter Ledyard attorney.


Carter Ledyard has created a COVID-19 Response Group to monitor the evolving legal landscape, address client questions and ensure client compliance with the laws and regulations issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Carter Ledyard COVID-19 Response Group consists of Jeffery S. Boxer (212-238-8626,, Judith A. Lockhart (212-238-8603,, Bryan J. Hall (212-238-8894,, Alexander G. Malyshev (212-238-8618,, Melissa J. Erwin (212-238-8622,, and Leonardo Trivigno (212-238-8724, Clients should contact the attorneys listed above or their regular CLM attorney for any questions concerning legal obligations arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP uses Client Advisories to inform clients and other interested parties of noteworthy issues, decisions and legislation which may affect them or their businesses. A Client Advisory does not constitute legal advice or an opinion. This document was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein. © 2020 Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP.
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