NB_440_21_5 - NB 440-21-5 PGM – Appraisal Specifications Waiver Request and Authorization Process Due to COVID-19 Restrictions
NB 440-21-5 PGM – Appraisal Specifications Waiver Request and Authorization Process Due to COVID-19 Restrictions
National Bulletin: 440-21-5 Date: November 5, 2020
Subject: PGM – Appraisal Specifications Waiver Request and Authorization Process Due to COVID-19 Restrictions


 
Purpose.  NRCS easement programs appraisal specifications require an in-person interview of the landowner, an onsite inspection of the subject property and comparable sales, specific certification statements, and certain reporting requirements that cannot be met due to COVID-19 restrictions. NRCS may provide a waiver of these requirements pursuant to the process outlined in this national bulletin. 
 
Expiration Date.  September 30, 2021
 
Background.  Title 440 – Conservation Program Manual (CPM), Part 527 Subpart E, Section 527.40 C provides guidance regarding NRCS appraisal specifications and statement of work for the appropriate NRCS easement program. No changes are permitted in the NRCS appraisal specifications and scope of work for appraisals unless the changes are authorized by the national appraiser. This national bulletin provides guidance regarding the process to obtain a waiver of certain appraisal specification requirements to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions.

NRCS easement program appraisal specifications require an in-person interview of the landowner and an onsite inspection of the subject property and sales. COVID-19 restrictions currently apply to Federal, State, and local communities and limit or restrict in-person interactions. As a result, a waiver may be required for NRCS Specifications and Scope of Work, the “Appraisal Specification,” for:

• Title 440 Part 528 Subpart U, Section 528.217 A - Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) – Agricultural Land Easement (ALE)
• Title 440 Part 528 Subpart U, Section 528.225 C - Appraisal of Real Property for Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) – Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE)
• Title 390 Part 515 Subpart G, Section 515.60 - Emergency Wetland Protection Program (EWPP) – Floodplain Easement (FPE) and National Bulletin 390-20-5 PDM
• Title 440, Part 511 Subpart I, Section 511.102 - Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP).
 

Explanation.  The following guidance provides States with the process to follow to request a waiver of certain appraisal specification requirements due to COVID-19 restrictions. This guidance will apply to the following NRCS Appraisal Specifications:

1. Subject property landowner in-person interview:
a. ACEP-ALE - subparagraph F.1.e.;
b. ACEP-WRE - subparagraph F.1.d.;
c. EWPP-FPE - subparagraph F.1.e.; and
d. HFRP - subparagraph G(2)(iii).

2. Onsite inspection of the subject property and sales:
a. ACEP-ALE - subparagraph F.1.d.;
b. ACEP-WRE - subparagraph F.1.d.c.;
c. EWPP-FPE - subparagraph F.1.d.; and
d. HFRP - subparagraphs G(2)(ii) and (viii).

3. Certification provided by the appraiser:
a. ACEP-ALE - subparagraph F.2.a.4.a.;
b. ACEP-WRE - subparagraph F.2.a.4.a. and b.;
c. EWPP-FPE - subparagraph F.2.a.v.; and
d. HFRP - subparagraph H(1)(iv) and J(vi).

4. Inspection of sales waiver:
a. ACEP-ALE - subparagraph F.2.c.3.g.;
b. ACEP-WRE - subparagraph F.2.c.3.f.;
c. EWPP-FPE - subparagraph F.2.c.iii.4.e.; and
d. HFRP subparagraph H(4)(xix).

When COVID-19 restrictions render it impossible to comply with requirements of the Appraisal Specifications listed above, it is the responsibility of the State Conservationist, on behalf of the appraiser or, for ACEP-ALE, the eligible entity, to request, in writing, a waiver of the Appraisal Specifications.

1. Waiver request requirements. Waiver request be submitted, reviewed, and approved prior to the appraiser inspecting the subject property and comparable sales. On rare occasion, post approval of a waiver request may be necessary. The same information is required for either pre appraisal assignment or for post approval of the waiver after completion of the appraisal assignment. The request must be in writing and include the following:

a. Type of waiver request; pre appraisal assignment or after the appraisal assignment is completed.

b. A list of the COVID-19 restrictions impacting the subject property or the surrounding community and how restrictions interfere with the appraiser’s ability to comply with the requirements of the Appraisal Specifications listed above. Additionally, for post approval waiver request the request should explain why the post waiver request is necessary.

c. A proposed alternate inspection method of the subject property. At minimum, the appraiser is expected to do a drive-by of the subject property and, if practical, enter the subject property to view and photograph significant portions without direct interaction with the landowner. For a Supplemental Appraisal, a drive-by of the subject is only necessary if the client requests a new effective date for the appraisal.

i. An alternative means of inspection of the subject property may be the use of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) drone to view the property.
ii. If there has been a previous inspection of the subject property by the appraiser for the client and the assignment is a supplemental appraisal, the appraiser may request a third-party appraiser to complete the drive-by of the subject and comparable sales.

d. Alternative data sources. The appraiser should use the municipality assessor data and complete a phone interview with the owner to verify and document property and improvement details. Subject property landowner must be interviewed by phone. When available, the appraiser must use aerial imagery and photographs to describe the property.

e. Comparable sale inspection. The appraiser must, at minimum, drive by the property to inspect comparable sales and call the owner or broker later to verify. Sales in the appraiser’s comparable sale database that have been verified in the past by a visual inspection do not require a new visual inspection.

f. Imagery used to verify subject property and sales and the source of the imagery. Imagery must be current and provide clear resolution and should show the subject property’s important features and characteristics, including access.

g. If there has been a previous inspection of the subject property by the appraiser for the client, the waiver request will provide the effective date(s), if original or supplemental appraisal, and who was present during the inspection.

h. List how the drive-by will occur, who will complete the drive-by, and what portion of the subject property can be viewed from the vehicle. Include and describe in the request if the appraiser has previously inspected the subject property and if an associate is needed to complete a drive-by of the subject property and/or comparable sales.

2. Consideration of the waiver request. The NRCS State Conservationist for the State in which the subject property is located will submit the request to the National Appraiser through the Easement Support email box (EasementSupport@usda.gov).   If the request is insufficient, the National Appraiser will respond to the State Conservationist, requesting additional information.  If the request is sufficient, the National Appraiser will grant the waiver request in writing, (i) summarizing the reason for granting the waiver and the provisions of the Appraisal Specifications that are being changed, and (ii) for prior appraisal assignment waiver, provide the State Conservationist with revised Appraisal Specifications that are to be used in place of the standard Appraisal Specifications.

3. Modification of Appraisal Specifications. Upon receipt of the approved waiver and the modified Appraisal Specifications, the NRCS State Office must use the modified Appraisal Specifications as follows:

a. If NRCS is responsible for ordering the appraisal but the appraisal has not been contracted at the time the waiver is granted, the NRCS State Office will ensure that the modified appraisal specifications are included in the contract solicitation package.

b. If NRCS is responsible for ordering the appraisal and the appraisal contract has already been awarded using the standard Appraisal Specifications, the NRCS State Office will coordinate with the Contracting Officer to amend the Statement of Work for the Award to reflect the updated specifications.

c. For ACEP-ALE, NRCS will coordinate with the eligible entity and, as needed, the FBC Grants and Agreement Division (GAD) to amend the obligating document (Cooperative Agreement or Grant Agreement) to add the modified Appraisal Specifications and to inform the appraiser of the new specifications. For waivers granted for parcels under a Program Agreement, EPD will provide the steps to update the Program Agreement exhibits.

4. Post Approval Waiver Request. The National Appraiser approval letter will be provided to the technical reviewer when a technical review is requested.

 
Contact.  Questions regarding this guidance may be directed to Don Howard, National Appraiser, Easement Programs Division, by phone at (503) 414-3260, or by email at don.howard@usda.gov.
 
 

 /s/

JIMMY BRAMBLETT
Deputy Chief for Programs
 
 
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