Please see below for the latest updates on COVID-19 and RECO’s operations.
|Government of Ontario Update: Open houses prohibited
Effective Saturday, April 4 at 11:59 p.m.
“Every person who is responsible for a business that provides real estate agent services shall ensure that the business does not host, provide or support any open house events.” (link)
|COVID-19 and the professional liability insurance program
For information, please view this document from the insurance provider, Alternative Risk Services.
April 30, 2020
RECO has received a wide variety of questions about real estate trading in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please see below for answers to some of the most common questions from registrants.
Challenges in closing trades
Will RECO enable the extension of real estate closing dates, without penalty?
RECO does not have the authority to enable the extension of closing dates.
Altering the closing date of a real estate transaction would require amending the agreement of purchase and sale (APS), which is a binding contract between the buyer and the seller. Any change to the closing date in the APS can only be made by written amendment signed by the parties to the agreement. During this unprecedented situation, we encourage all parties to approach such changes with a desire to be flexible and understanding in changing circumstances.
Some brokerages have taken steps to develop and recommend clauses that facilitate COVID-19 related delays. Consider seeking legal advice before including such a clause.
Will RECO enable consumers who can’t close because of COVID-19 to get their deposits back?
It is outside RECO’s authority to require the return of deposits.
Failed transactions must be resolved through an agreement between the buyer and seller, with support from professionals such as real estate salespeople and lawyers. The distribution of deposits may only occur by agreement between the parties, or by court order.
During this unprecedented situation, we encourage all parties to approach such situations with a desire to be flexible and understanding in changing circumstances. Registrants should continue to support their clients to find effective solutions – something they do well.
For more information, see the Registrar’s Bulletin on failed Agreements of Purchase and Sale.
If the Agreement of Purchase and Sale stipulated that the buyer was entitled to a certain number of pre-closing visits, does the seller have to honour this obligation, in light of the changing circumstances?
During this unprecedented situation, we encourage all parties to approach such situations with a desire to be flexible and understanding in changing circumstances. We encourage registrants to continue to support their clients to find creative and effective solutions.
Will land registry offices be available to close transactions?
Land registration services are included on the Government of Ontario’s list of essential workplaces, and these services remain available.
Showings and open houses
The Government of Ontario has prohibited the hosting of in-person open houses during the state of emergency. In addition, RECO strongly recommends that brokers and salespeople follow the direction of health officials by limiting showings to situations where they are absolutely necessary. For more information and answers to common questions, please stay tuned to this page.
Do I still have to attend in-person showings?
RECO strongly recommends that brokerages and salespeople follow the direction of health authorities by limiting in-person showings to situations where they are absolutely necessary.
If you offer to conduct an in-person showing, take steps to reduce the risk of transmission by following guidelines from health authorities: practice proper handwashing and sanitizing procedures and discourage the buyer from touching any surfaces in the home.
Consider asking the buyer to fill out a questionnaire that asks about travel history, COVID-19 symptoms, whether they have been in self-isolation, and so forth. This information can be shared with the occupants of the property. Some brokerages have created forms for this purpose. Ask your employing brokerage if they have created such a tool. Note that, under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), this information can only be used for the purposes for which it was collected.
You must not allow your client to enter a home unaccompanied by a registrant. Doing so would result in disciplinary action.
If you choose NOT to offer in person showings, you must explain the circumstances to your clients and explain their alternatives. However, if you cannot make suitable arrangements to meet your client’s needs, you may need to cancel your agreement with them.
The listing agreement with my client stipulates that I will provide an open house. How should I proceed now that they are prohibited?
Although the listing agreement is a binding contract, it is not possible to fulfill the in-person open house provision because it would violate the Government of Ontario’s prohibition on open houses.
Discuss the circumstances and alternatives with your seller. Consider electronic options, and clearly explain the marketing benefits of hosting an open house by using online technologies.
Private showings have not been prohibited, but should only be conducted in situations where they are absolutely necessary.
Properties with tenants
Can showings proceed without the tenant’s consent?
The government has taken steps to modify landlord and tenant rights under these unprecedented times.
These parameters fall under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (RTA), which is enforced by the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). It is outside of RECO’s jurisdiction to require a tenant’s consent for showings. However, RECO has recommended that registrants obtain the tenant’s consent.
Registrants must comply with the RTA in all dealings with tenants. Please note that if a landlord is not permitted to do something under the RTA, a registrant cannot do it either. In addition, the landlord’s consent is required for any actions involving tenants.
We encourage all parties to approach such situations with a desire to be flexible and understanding, with full consideration of the risk of transmission associated with in-person showings.
My client is buying a property that is occupied by a tenant. The tenant was issued an eviction notice prior to the Government of Ontario’s temporary ban on evictions. Can the eviction still proceed?
Eviction orders fall under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (RTA), which is enforced by the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). It is outside of RECO’s jurisdiction to comment on RTA issues. During this unprecedented situation, we encourage all parties to approach such situations with a desire to be flexible and understanding in changing circumstances. We encourage registrants to continue to support their clients to find creative and effective solutions. Please contact LTB for further guidance.
Proof of identity
What should I do if authorities ask me to prove that I’m registered to trade?
The MyRECO Certificate App allows you to display your RECO registration certificate on your mobile device in real time, providing authorities with proof that you are registered to trade.
If you have a paper certificate, you may also present it to authorities, as an alternative.
Short-term accommodation rentals
Can you clarify the Government of Ontario’s requirement that short-term accommodation rentals can only be provided to individuals who are in need of housing during the emergency period?
In its communications regarding the list of essential workplaces, the Government of Ontario included the following:
Short term rentals
- Every person who provides short term rentals in rental accommodations shall ensure that any rentals booked after April 4, 2020 are only provided to individuals who are in need of housing during the emergency period.
- Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of hotels, motels and student residences.
When facilitating short-term accommodation rentals, brokers and salespeople should use their best judgment to determine whether the individual is in need of housing during the emergency, or whether they are seeking accommodation for other purposes.
The obligations for registrants who facilitate short-term accommodation rentals continue to apply. For more information, please see the Registrar’s Bulletin on the topic.
Financial elements of a trade
Can I use electronic funds transfers in lieu of paper cheques?
Yes. Electronic funds transfers (commonly referred to as EFTs) reduce the need for in-person contact in the course of real estate trades. For more information on meeting compliance requirements when using electronic funds transfers, please see the Registrar’s Bulletin on the topic.
How do I fulfill FINTRAC requirements without checking photo ID in person?
FINTRAC’s hub for real estate compliance contains a page with detailed requirements for confirming a client’s identification without meeting them in person.
Are brokerage offices permitted to remain open, with administrative staff working onsite?
The Government of Ontario has included real estate services on its essential workplaces list. As such, brokerage offices may remain open, with staff working onsite. However, brokerages and their employees must follow the health authority guidelines, including physical distancing and regular handwashing.
April 27, 2020
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario is going through a profoundly challenging time. As with many businesses across the province, there has been a severe impact on the province’s real estate sector.
RECO recognizes the financial challenges that many registrants face and beginning today we are providing two options to help ease some of the financial burden registrants may be facing. Eligible registrants can take advantage of one or both options, depending on their circumstances.
Option 1: Defer (“Pay Later”) renewal application payment
When a registrant renews their registration between now and October 31, 2020, they may choose to defer their renewal application payment for up to 90 days.
Any registrant who is eligible to renew their registration before October 31, 2020 may choose to defer payment. Registrants are eligible to renew their registration within 60 days of their expiry date.
How does a registrant request a payment deferral?
Eligible registrants follow the renewal process as they normally would, by logging in to MyWeb. When they reach the payment screen, they will be given the option of paying now or paying later. After selecting “pay later”, the due date for their payment will be deferred by 90 days.
What impact does deferral have on the registrant’s expiry date?
The expiry date does not change. Once the registrant applies to renew, they will be given the option to defer the payment for 90 days from the expiry date.
Under the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 (REBBA 2002), a registrant cannot trade unless they are participating in the professional liability insurance program administered by RECO. As the current term of insurance coverage ends on August 31, 2020, all registrants must make their insurance payment by August 14, 2020 in order to be eligible to trade after August 31, 2020.
Because insurance is a regulatory requirement for registration under REBBA, and RECO is not the insurer, RECO is unable to offer flexibility in the payment timelines of insurance payments.
Option 2: Terminate registration, and reinstate at a discounted rate
Registrants continue to have the option of terminating their registration, or allowing it to lapse, and reinstating it later.
Normally, reinstatement applications require the payment of the $390 registration fee and a $200 application review fee. However, until October 31, 2020, RECO is suspending the $200 application review fee for reinstatements.
Any registrant seeking to reinstate their registration on or before October 31, 2020 will not be required to pay the $200 application review fee.
How does a registrant terminate their registration?
A registrant may terminate their registration by asking their Broker of Record to terminate their employment via MyWeb, or by allowing their registration to lapse (by not applying to renew on or before their expiry date).
How does a registrant reinstate their registration without paying the $200 application review fee?
The application review fee will be waived for all reinstatement applications submitted up to and including October 31, 2020. After that date, the $200 application review fee will apply.
For more information on reinstatements, see RECO’s website.
Insurance payments related to reinstatement applications
Under the REBBA 2002, a registrant cannot trade unless they are participating in the professional liability insurance program administered by RECO. Depending on an applicant’s situation, an insurance amount may be due to complete their application to reinstate.
Options at a glance
April 4, 2020
The Government of Ontario has updated its list of essential businesses in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Although real estate services are still considered essential, the government has prohibited the hosting of open houses, effective 11:59 PM on Saturday, April 4, 2020.
Real estate brokerages, brokers and salespeople must cease hosting and attending open houses. In addition, RECO strongly recommends that brokers and salespeople follow the direction of health officials by limiting showings to situations where they are absolutely necessary.
The government has also added requirements for short-term accommodation rentals: after April 4, 2020, they can only be provided to individuals who need housing during the state of emergency.
Although real estate trading services may continue, this is clearly not “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.
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.
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.
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
Due to COVID-19, current registrants who are not able to complete the required articling courses at OREA, enabling them to renew their registration, will be permitted to submit their 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 OREA articling 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-207-4800.
Thank you and stay safe.
Chief Executive Officer