Seven Steps to Avoid Liability and Stay Safe during the Pandemic

By: Francis X. (Rich) Finigan 13 November 2020

The Coronavirus epidemic is reaching renewed heights across America. That’s the bad news. The good news is that deaths per case have declined because hospitals are better equipped to treat patients with the virus.

Your work as an appraiser is so important to the financial well-being of America, it can’t be overstated. Many of the site visits that you will be conducting are for refinancing. Many people are using this financing as bridge loans to get them through the pandemic or simply to take advantage of the low-interest rates. Without you, the loan isn’t going to occur!

While you’re undertaking this important work, you need to stay safe, keep your family safe, and keep those homeowners safe. On Wednesday, November 11, 2020, 145,000 new cases were reported, a new record! The following are things you can do to protect your health, the health of people you are in contact with, and protect yourself from liability. They include steps to staying safe, a questionnaire we recommend you use before you schedule an appointment for a site visit, and an addendum to include in your appraisal.

As many of you know, Francis X. (Rich) Finigan is an environmental expert as well as a real estate appraiser and educator. Calypso Continuing Education™ is an EPA accredited training provider. We won’t belabor our credentials. We have developed the following to help appraisers stay safe while they embark on inspections of residential properties. The recommendations are based on good environmental practices and source documents regarding this pandemic from CDC, WHO, and OSHA.

  1. Send the attached questionnaire or ask the questions over the phone to the residents of the properties you are about to inspect. Send it a few days before your inspection to ensure that the residents haven’t been out of the country, had a fever, or been diagnosed positively with the Covid 19 virus, etc.  Ask the resident to please, answer the questions honestly, after due consideration. Thank them for their cooperation. If all the questions are not answered satisfactorily, reschedule the appointment for a future date. Also, I would strongly recommend consolidating as many inspections in a single day as possible.
  2. Conduct any interviews about the subject property remotely i.e., by telephone, email, text, or other modes of communication. Ask the resident to please,  answer the following questions honestly, after due consideration. Thank them for their cooperation.
  3. Before entering the subject property put on your PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
    1. Put on your face mask before entering the property.
    2. Before you touch the doorknob of the house you don your disposable nitrile gloves. We do not recommend latex coding gloves because some people have an allergy to them.
  4. Once inside the subject property do not touch anything. Take photographs with your smartphone and capture your measurements as efficiently as possible.
  5. When you leave the subject property remove your PPE outside your vehicle in the following manner:
    1. First remove your booties (if using) by rolling them from the heel to the toe, dirty side in. Do not reuse them. Dispose of them in a trash bag.
    2. Second, doff your gloves by gripping the cuff of one of the gloves pulling it off and crumpling it in your still gloved hand. Then gripping the cuff of the gloved hand, that’s holding the crumpled glove pull it directly over your hand trapping the contaminated side and crumpled glove inside like a little bag. Do not reuse the gloves. Dispose of them.
    3. Whenever you are working around contamination, the last thing you take off is your respiratory safety. Grip the bands that hold your mask on and remove it from your head folding the side that was next to the face against each other to prevent cross-contamination from the outside of the mask. You may continue using an N-95 until one of the three D’s exists: deteriorated, damp, or visibly dirty.
    4. Clean your hands with hand sanitizer immediately rubbing them together for about 20 seconds.
  6. When you get home, immediately remove your garments, and put them in the washer. Launder them normally.
  7. Attach a Covid 19 Addendum at or near the beginning of your appraisal report.