I’m a tenant in a house that’s being sold. Now that many COVID-related restrictions have been lifted, how can I ensure that showings are still being done as safely as possible?

Having strangers enter your home during a pandemic can be a stressful situation for tenants trying to stay safe. I encourage all parties to approach such situations with a desire to be flexible and understanding, and with full consideration of the potential risk of transmission associated with in-person showings.

Ontario recently entered Step Three of its reopening plan, which includes the resuming in-person open house showings. Under the guidelines, there must be physical distancing of at least two metres between individuals and up to a maximum of 50 people in a home being shown. Face coverings in indoor public settings are still mandatory in Ontario.

As a tenant, you should be aware that showings and open houses are permitted if you are given sufficient notice, in compliance with the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006. Speak with the property manager or owner/seller as soon as possible to share your concerns and provide them with your requests.

Brokerages and salespeople have been advised to follow guidance from public health authorities and work with sellers/property owners to establish their preferred safety protocols for showings — including open houses — and communicating them to potential buyers. Depending on what the seller chooses, safeguards may differ from property to property, but must always adhere to the health and safety requirements set by provincial authorities.

Some brokerages are enhancing their online services to accommodate the need for physical distancing by offering virtual showings to help reduce traffic to listed properties.

But there are steps residents can take to help limit the possibility of virus transmission and keep everyone safe. These include:

    • Providing disposable masks onsite for visitors.
    • Providing hand sanitizer at the entrance to the home.
    • Requesting that the listing agent limit the number of attendees permitted during the viewings and ensure no visitors displaying symptoms are permitted.
    • Opening external and internal doors.
    • Opening windows, if possible, to increase air flow.
    • Turning on all lights in the home to prevent unnecessary touching of switches.
    • Wiping down surfaces that are likely to have been touched after each visit, such as doorknobs, handrails, light switches, and countertops.
    • Posting signs reminding guests to wear masks and to adhere to the safety precautions.

It is important to maintain an open dialogue about your circumstances. Situations involving vulnerable people require special care. Real estate professionals and landlords should work with tenants to address their concerns about health and safety. They can consider doing virtual showings or hold an open house when the tenant is not on the property.

By all parties working together, effective safety measures can be established to help protect everyone involved in a transaction.


This column is for general information purposes only and is not meant as legal or professional advice on real estate transactions.

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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