COVID-19 Notices

Please see below for the latest updates on COVID-19 and RECO’s operations.

COVID-19 and the professional liability insurance program
For information, please view this document from the insurance provider, Alternative Risk Services.
Consumer information on showings and open houses
The March 26 Ask Joe column provides consumers with guidance on open houses and showings in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The column ran in online and print editions of the Toronto Star.

 

NOTICES

Real estate is an essential service, but it’s NOT “business as usual”

 
March 26, 2020
The Government of Ontario ordered all non-essential businesses to close by 11:59 PM on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government published exceptions to this order in their list of essential workplaces. Notably, the government has deemed real estate an essential service.

In short, the government has signaled that real estate trades may continue. But that doesn’t mean a return to “business as usual.” Ontario remains under a state of emergency, and registrants have a duty to follow the direction of health officials to minimize direct physical interaction. Embracing digital technology is essential in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Earlier this week, RECO released updated guidance on open houses and showings. In particular, RECO strongly recommended that brokerages and salespeople follow the direction of health officials by declining to facilitate or participate in open houses, and by limiting showings to where they are absolutely necessary.

That guidance continues to apply.

There are many other situations during a real estate trade that typically involve personal contact, such as signing documents and in-person client communications. We strongly recommend that registrants look at technological solutions that can significantly reduce or eliminate the need for these in-person interactions, and discuss alternatives with their clients.

Possible alternatives include:

    • Using virtual tours, 360 walk-throughs, mobile measurement applications and digital floorplans instead of in-person viewings
    • Using electronic documents and signatures, instead of paper documents
    • Using electronic funds transfers instead of certified cheques
    • Communicating with clients via written communications, smartphone technology applications, and video conferencing, instead of face-to-face

 

Am I allowed to continue trading?

Yes, the government has sent a clear signal that real estate trading may continue. However, health and safety remain paramount. Health authorities have asked all Ontarians to reduce or eliminate in-person interactions. We strongly recommend that you work with your clients to find technological alternatives.

Am I allowed to take new listings?

Yes, you may enter into new listing agreements with sellers. However, you are under no obligation to do so.

Before asking your client to sign a listing agreement, make sure they understand the services you are prepared to offer, and how those services will differ compared to what they might have expected from a typical trade prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do I deal with tenant occupied properties?

Tenant-occupied properties pose particular challenges. Though tenants and landlords have respective rights under the Residential Tenancies Act, administered by the Landlord and Tenant Board, particular attention must be paid to the tenant’s health and safety.

Though buyers may want to see the home in-person before committing, you could reduce the number of in-person showings required by asking buyers to assess their interest through virtual options first. If they remain interested, you could work out a plan to safely view the property. Viewings should only occur with the tenant’s consent, however.

Please take great care to discuss with your seller the importance of considering the health and safety of tenants.

Please check the Landlord and Tenant Board’s website for ongoing updates related to COVID-19 and tenants.

I heard some salespeople continue to trade real estate in ways that go against the direction of health officials (for example going door to door to prospect clients). What can RECO do about that?

Everyone, including registrants, must take this crisis seriously for their own health and that of the general public. The Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 and the Code of Ethics include provisions that require registrants to practice with integrity, to promote the best interests of their clients and to act honourably and professionally. We take these matters very seriously. Registrants who demonstrate a blatant disregard for the protection of the public, by ignoring the direction of health officials during their trading activities, will face serious sanctions, including possible disciplinary prosecution by RECO.

If my client insists, do I have to agree to use paper documents, physical cheques and in-person communications?

No, as a registrant and business operator, you decide which services you are prepared to offer. You should make those decisions based on the most current guidance and direction of health authorities, which at present is to reduce or eliminate direct physical interaction that could promote transmission of the virus. Help your clients understand the importance of following current direction from health authorities and the risks that come with paper documents and in-person meetings.

Can my seller client decline to allow showings in advance, but allow buyers to make their offers conditional on a satisfactory showing?

There is nothing in the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 that would prohibit such a practice. However, you should seek advice from your brokerage and legal counsel about the pros and cons before recommending such a clause to a client. When representing the seller, be sure they understand the risks that may come from this approach. Consider including language that would protect the seller in case the buyer then refuses to provide or unreasonably delays a final, written decision about whether they will waive the condition or not.

There is no clear alternative to certain in-person aspects of a real estate trade, such as home inspections or measuring the property to confirm dimensions prior to listing. What does RECO recommend?

RECO is considering these sorts of questions, but in this rapidly evolving situation, we don’t have all the answers. We are looking to the profession, which continues to develop innovative solutions to these sorts of challenges. We invite brokers and salespeople to share these solutions with their colleagues and their local boards.

How does the government’s announcement impact RECO’s services?

Though RECO has been identified as an essential workplace, RECO will continue to operate and provide information about COVID-19 and real estate. Please remember that RECO has no authority to direct the cessation of real estate trading in Ontario.

RECO has transitioned all of its staff to working from home, in order to continue to deliver key services while protecting their safety. RECO’s core services (registration applications, transfers, Mandatory Continuing Education and complaint handling) are all available online. For the latest information about RECO’s service delivery, please visit this page.

COVID-19 and the professional liability insurance program

Many registrants are asking if the professional liability insurance program provides coverage for claims arising out of events related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For information on this issue, please see this document from the insurance provider, Alternative Risk Services.

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COVID-19 – Updated Guidance on Showings and Open Houses

 
March 23, 2020
Health authorities have provided important guidance to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, directing that people minimize opportunities for transmission of the virus through direct physical interaction.

Conventional open houses, which involve in-person viewing of the property and direct physical interaction with salespeople and other prospective buyers, are the types of activity health authorities are directing be ceased.

We strongly recommend that brokerages and salespeople follow the direction of health officials by declining to facilitate or participate in open houses, and by limiting showings to where they are absolutely necessary.

We support the many brokerages and salespeople who have adopted strategies that promote social distancing, by focusing on virtual, digital and paperless solutions that reduce direct physical interaction during real estate transactions, significantly reducing the risk of transmission. We greatly appreciate the efforts of real estate associations and boards who have, or will be, temporarily suppressing open houses on their MLS® Systems and on public facing websites.

These are extraordinary times, and everyone should do their part by following the expert direction of health authorities.

Please continue to closely monitor announcements from health authorities and to visit this page for additional information published by RECO.

Do I have to host an open house for my client?

No. As a registrant and business operator, you decide which services you are prepared to offer. You should make those decisions based on the most current guidance and direction of health authorities, which at present is to reduce or eliminate direct physical interaction that could promote transmission of the virus. Information from health authorities is evolving and changing based on current circumstances and facts. Please stay up to date.

Do I have to participate in showings?

No. As a registrant and business operator, you decide which services you are prepared to offer. You should make those decisions based on the most current guidance and direction of health authorities, which at present is to reduce or eliminate direct physical interaction that could promote transmission of the virus.

In-person meetings and showings should be limited to where they are absolutely necessary. Help your clients understand the importance of following current direction from health authorities and the risks that come with hosting or attending showings. If your client decides to allow showings of their property or to attend showings of other properties, you can decline to participate. As always, you should discuss with your clients the services you are prepared to offer and ways to minimize the risk of transmission of the virus.

If you do decide to participate in a showing, actively promote social distancing and follow recommendations of health authorities about handwashing and sanitizing to reduce the risk for yourself, buyers and sellers.

What are the alternatives to open houses and in-person showings?

Digital technologies offer possible buyers and sellers many ways to show and view a property, without setting foot in the home. Explore virtual marketing tools and strategies, such as video and virtual tours, in addition to conventional photos of the property. Though a buyer may want to see the home in-person before committing, they might be able to reduce the number of in-person showings required by assessing properties through virtual options first.

Why isn’t RECO banning open houses and showings?

When it comes to issues of public health, RECO follows the direction of health authorities, namely the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, who continue to provide guidance to the public and businesses around minimizing the risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus and other health related issues.

RECO strongly recommends that brokerages and salespeople decline to host or participate in open houses. Instead, RECO recommends alternative ways of delivering real estate services that minimize direct personal contact to help reduce the transmission of the virus.

A number of brokerages and salespeople have already adopted this approach, and associations and boards are urging their members to do the same. Some local boards have taken further steps to suspend the ability to have open houses appear on their MLS® systems.

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OREA and Humber College COVID-19 Update

 
March 20, 2020
The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. In an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus, the Ontario government has declared a state of emergency and is urging the public to practice social distancing and to minimize in-person interactions.

In response, the OREA Real Estate College (OREA), Humber Institute of Training and Academic Learning (Humber) and RECO are taking steps to minimize in-person interactions. OREA and Humber have ceased delivery of in-person classes and examinations until further notice.

We recognize the difficulties and delays that may result and thank those affected for their patience and understanding.

The delays may impact those who are required to complete courses before they can renew or apply for registration.

Registration Renewal Applicants
Registrants who are not able to complete the courses required for their registration renewal due to the COVID-19 crisis will be permitted to submit their RECO renewal application on an interim basis. The renewal must be submitted through MyWeb on or before the registration expiry date.

Until they have been given the opportunity to complete the required courses, the application will be held as “pending” and they will be permitted to continue trading. Registrants may confirm their registration status by logging in to their RECO MyWeb account.

New and Reinstatement Applicants
Individuals aspiring to become registered or seeking to reinstate their registration who have outstanding courses to complete will not be permitted to apply until they have completed their educational requirements.

RECO will continue to monitor how COVID-19 is impacting real estate education in Ontario. We will provide further updates if the situation changes.

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RECO’s Response to COVID-19

Effective March 17th, 2020, RECO’s office is no longer accessible to the public

March 17, 2020
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, RECO has been taking various precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of our employees, registrants and stakeholders. As industry professionals, you too are facing similar challenges and clearly, it is no longer business as usual for all of us.

This situation continues to evolve and further to Ontario’s declaration of a state of emergency earlier today, RECO is now taking additional measures to keep the Ontario public and our employees safe. As such, RECO’s office will no longer be accessible to the public effective March 17, 2020, until further notice. Package deliveries will still be accepted, but no signatures will be provided.

We assure you that we have the technology in place that enables us to continue our operations, but we would appreciate your patience during this difficult time. RECO’s staff will respond as quickly as possible. Key RECO services (registration applications, transfers, Mandatory Continuing Education (MCE) and complaint handling) are all available online.

RECO will continue to monitor and provide updates related to this COVID-19 pandemic as circumstances change.

For all enquiries please email information@reco.on.ca or call 416-207-4800.

Thank you and stay safe.

Michael Beard
Chief Executive Officer

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