I’ll be moving in a few weeks and am concerned about moving into a home that was previously occupied, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Is the seller obligated to have the property cleaned and sanitized before I take possession?

Congratulations on your home purchase.

There is currently no government or Public Health directive in place that requires homes be professionally cleaned and sanitized before new owners take possession of a property. That said, good for you for taking a safety-first approach in preparing for your move.

Unless professional cleaning was included as a condition within the agreement of purchase and sale (APS), the seller is typically expected to present the home in what some in the industry refer to as “broom-swept condition”. Much as it sounds, broom swept or broom clean condition typically includes sweeping or vacuuming the floors, removing garbage, emptying cupboards, clearing closets and the refrigerator (if one is included) and making sure that the property is free of any personal belongings.

Besides the fact that leaving a place tidy for the buyer is a common courtesy, no new owner wants to have to get rid of stuff left behind by others. If a seller thinks, “maybe they’ll want this.” They should ask beforehand, so they know whether to leave it. Otherwise, they need to take it with them when they leave.

Refer to your APS regarding the condition you can expect the home is to be left in. If you are unsure, ask your salesperson for clarification.

If you still prefer to have your new home professional cleaned, there are a number of companies that offer cleaning services that are in line with the Public Health Agency of Canada’s recommendations. I recommend speaking with your salesperson, they can often refer a service provider for such jobs. Just remember, unless otherwise negotiated and specified, the cost of the cleaning will be your responsibility, and likely cannot take place until after closing, when the property is vacant, and you are the new owner.

Public Health has identified several high-contact areas and surfaces frequently touched with hands that present the highest risk of contamination. This includes doorknobs, handrails, light switches, cabinet handles, faucet handles, and countertops.

Should you choose to clean your new place yourself, public health officials have released guidance on cleaning and disinfecting of public settings that you may find to be a helpful reference. Some of the recommendations include that people wear gloves while cleaning, ensure the cleaning area is well ventilated and use disinfecting cleaning products, as directed, to ensure their effectiveness.

More information and guidance from Public Health regarding cleaning and disinfecting during COVID-19 can be found on the Canada.ca website. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/cleaning-disinfecting-public-spaces.html

Regardless of the method you choose, please carefully consider the risks associated with virus transmission and the advice provided by public health to take appropriate precautions to help protect against COVID-19. I wish you a safe and healthy move to your new home.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email information@reco.on.ca.


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Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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