The question has been raised whether persons are allowed to relocate their primary residences during this crisis. It is important to consider both the letter and the spirit of the orders.
On March 27, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper issued a Stay at Home Order for the entire State of North Carolina (Executive Order No. 121, “State Order” or “E.O.”). The order took effect in all 100 counties on March 30, 2020 at 5:00 P.M. for thirty (30) days.
The State Order allows individuals to leave their residence “to obtain necessary services or supplies… necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences….” E.O. 121, §1(3)(ii). Because the State Order includes “moving and relocation services” as a Critical Trade, which is an essential business, “necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences,” relocation would be a permitted activity. E.O. 121, §2(C)(15).
Further, under the State Order an individual may leave his residence “to return to or travel between one's place or places of residence.” E.O. 121, §1(3)(viii). (While this section references child custody or visitation arrangements, it makes references to “places of residence”). If you are travelling between places of residence, it is permitted.
It is important to review both the State Order and any local directives. Cities and counties have enacted ordinances and issue state of emergency Declarations based on the more significant spread of the virus in urban areas. The State Order states that it is not intended to limit or prohibit counties and cities in North Carolina from enacting ordinances and issuing state of emergency declarations which impose greater restrictions or prohibitions to the extent authorized under North Carolina law.” E.O. 121, at §5. At this point, it is unclear how the varying definitions and text of these local orders will interact with the State Order.
While the Local orders do not mirror the State Order’s language regarding “travel between residences” or exemptions for the homeless, all of the orders allow individuals to leave the home to obtain services “necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences.” This includes:
- Mecklenburg County (link),
- Wake County (link),
- City of Durham (link),
- Orange County (link),
- Cabarrus County (link),
- Gaston County (link),
- Guilford County (link),
- Buncombe County (link),
- Dare County (link),
- Henderson County (link),
- Town of Beaufort (link),
- Pitt County (link),
- Haywood County (link),
- Swain County (link),
- Madison County (link),
- the Village of Clemmons (link) and
- Winston-Salem (link)/ Forsyth County (link)/ Town of Kernersville (link).
“Moving and relocation services” are included specifically within the definition of Critical Trades, which are essential businesses by Mecklenburg County (link), City of Durham (link), Orange County (link), Cabarrus County (link), Gaston County (link), Guilford County (link), Henderson County (link), Haywood County (link), Swain County (link), the Village of Clemmons (link) and Winston-Salem (link)/ Forsyth County (link)/ Town of Kernersville (link). In these areas, similar to areas not covered by a local order, relocation appears to be a permitted activity so long as other restrictions on distancing are followed.
On the other hand, in Dare County (link), Buncombe County (link), Town of Beaufort (link), and Pitt County (link) the critical trades are narrower and list “Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services… necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences and Essential Businesses.” Wake County (link) contains a similarly narrow list. Madison County (link) does not contain any specific reference to critical trades. Permission for residential relocation is less clear in these areas.
These extraordinary orders, declarations and proclamations were enacted to limit the amount of personal interaction and the spread of the virus, while still preserving “the critical infrastructure sectors and the essential workers needed to maintain the services and functions Americans depend on daily and that need to be able to operate resiliently during the COVID-19 pandemic response.” CISA Report, p. 3. In keeping with the spirit of the orders, persons should limit unnecessary and non-essential activities. Residential relocation should only be undertaken where it is essential, necessary, or where it supports the critical infrastructure sectors and the essential workers needed to maintain the services and functions upon which Americans depend.
If you have questions about the effects of this crisis in Real Estate, contact Allen Stahl + Kilbourne
Updated: March 31, 2020
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