COVID-19:
Industry Notices

Please see below for the latest industry 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.
 
NOTICES

COVID-19 and real estate: frequently asked questions

July 21, 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

As of November 7, 2020, in consultation with the Chief Medical Office of Health, local medical officers of health and other health experts, the province intends to move Ontario’s public health unit regions to the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework. The framework categorizes public health regions into five levels: Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, Orange-Restrict, Red-Control, and Lockdown being a measure of last and urgent resort.

Open Houses are permitted in regions in levels Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect and Orange-Restrict, with public health and workplace safety measures and restrictions in place.

The legal limit for an open house is 50 people indoors, with masks, where physical distancing can be maintained.

Brokers and salespeople must ensure that the total number of individuals attending an open house must be limited to the number where physical distancing of at least two metres is possible, without exceeding 50 people.

Speak with your clients regarding safety protocols and what they are comfortable with for open houses and showings, both as a seller or potential buyer.

For public health units in levels Red-Control and Lockdown, open houses are NOT permitted.

The government will review public health data on a weekly basis in order to determine if public health units should stay where they are or be moved into a different level. Be sure to check your local public health unit’s website for the latest updates for your region and any additional restrictions, before planning an open house.

What you need to know to stay safe during an open house

Plan Ahead:

    • Though they may be permitted in specific regions, they should be minimized and avoided unless they are necessary and with the buyer’s and seller’s informed decision
    • Stay at home and away from others if you are feeling ill or have symptoms of COVID-19
    • Get tested if you are worried you have or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19
    • Plan in advance and prepare the personal protective equipment you will need for yourself and any that you intend to provide to attendees
    • Consider communication safety guidelines to consumers before hand

 

During the Open House:

    • Wear a face covering in indoor and outdoor public spaces (can be non-medical masks or cloth masks). More information about face coverings.
    • Ask buyers or their representatives to make inquiries, to screen for COVID-19. Click on this link for current information from Ontario health authorities
    • Record the name and contact information of each person who attended the open house to support effective contact tracing (to contact those who attended the open house in the event an infection is later identified)
    • Consider requiring all clients to book an appointment in advance, wherever possible, for the purposes of physical distancing, flow management and contact tracing
    • Abide by a schedule to encourage consumers to wait for their turn by lining up while keeping two meters away from others or waiting in their cars
    • Limit the number of individuals allowed into a home at one time based on the size of the property
    • Maintain physical distancing of at least two meters metres from people outside of your household or social circle
    • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary environment
    • Ensure all lights are on and all doors (including closets) are open in areas consumers may want to see

 

After the Open House:

    • Recommend to client that they disinfect their home after open houses
    • Disinfect lockboxes and keys on exiting the home

 

Based on community needs, some municipalities and local medical officers of health have exercised their authority for more restrictions or requirements, such as mandatory face coverings in commercial establishments or all indoor public spaces. Be sure to check your local public health unit’s or municipality’s website.

In addition, RECO strongly recommends that brokers and salespeople limit showings to situations where they are 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 limit in-person showings to situations where they are necessary.

If you offer to conduct an in-person showing, take steps to reduce the risk of transmission by following guidelines from health authorities.

When viewing homes during the pandemic, can salespeople and/or their clients take photographs, video, facetime or conduct their own virtual tours without asking permission?
No. The rules in respect of photography and reproductions have not changed during the pandemic. No one is permitted take photographs, video, facetime or conduct their own virtual tours without the express permission of the seller, through the listing brokerage. It is important to remember that when potential buyers are permitted to take photos, they are intended for personal reference only. Photo permission does not imply permission to share images publicly, online or otherwise.

Helpful resource.

What you need to know to stay safe during an in-person showing

Plan Ahead:

    • Though they may be permitted in specific regions, they should be minimized and avoided unless they are necessary and with the seller’s informed decision
    • Stay at home and away from others if you are feeling ill or have symptoms of COVID-19
    • Get tested if you are worried you have or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19
    • Plan in advance and prepare the personal protective equipment you will need for yourself and any that you intend to provide to attendees
    • Consider communication safety guidelines to consumers before hand

During the In-Person Showing:

    • Wear a face covering in indoor and outdoor public spaces
    • Ask buyers or their representatives to make inquiries, to screen for COVID-19. Click on this link for current information from Ontario health authorities
    • Record the name and contact information of each person who attended the open house to support effective contact tracing (to contact those who attended the open house in the event an infection is later identified)
    • Consider requiring all clients to book an appointment in advance, wherever possible, for the purposes of physical distancing, flow management and contact tracing
    • Abide by a schedule to encourage consumers to wait for their turn by lining up while keeping two meters away from others or waiting in their cars
    • Limit the number of individuals allowed into a home at one time based on the size of the property
    • Maintain physical distancing of at least two meters metres from people outside of your household or social circle
    • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary environment
    • Ensure all lights are on and all doors (including closets) are open in areas consumers may want to see

After the In-Person Showing:

    • Recommend to client that they disinfect their home after open houses
    • Disinfect lockboxes and keys on exiting the home

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.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Brokerage offices


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’s recommended safety guidelines for businesses.

To minimize risk of passing on COVID-19 at work, brokerages should:

    • Screen workers
    • Support people with symptoms to self-isolate
    • Ensure physical distancing of two metres or more
    • Disinfect surfaces and objects
    • Support hand hygiene
    • Remind employees about good cough and sneeze etiquette and to avoid touching their face
    • Work with local public health unit if any workers have COVID-19 or are exposed to COVID-19.
    • Review and update their COVID-19 workplace safety plan
    • Discuss and share your safety plan with everyone at work.

Learn how you can create a plan to help protect your workers and others from COVID-19: https://www.ontario.ca/page/develop-your-covid-19-workplace-safety-plan

Review a list of companies that sell personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies to keep your employees and customers safe from COVID-19: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/workplace-ppe-supplier-directory

To minimize risk of passing on COVID-19 at work, employees should:

      • Get tested if they are worried they have or have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19
      • Maintain physical distancing of at least two metres from people outside of their household or social circle
      • Wear a face covering in indoor and outdoor public spaces where physical distancing is a challenge
          • Can be non-medical masks or cloth masks
      • Wash their hands frequently with soap and water.
      • Practice good hygiene (covering a cough and sneeze and avoiding touching your face).
      • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
      • Consider requiring all clients to book an appointment in advance, wherever possible, for the purposes of physical distancing, flow management and contact tracing.
      • Consider keeping a daily log of all the homes and workplace settings they have visited while working.

Based on community needs, some municipalities and local medical officers of health have exercised their authority for more restrictions or requirements, such as mandatory face coverings in commercial establishments or all indoor public spaces. Be sure to check your local public health unit’s or municipality’s website.

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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
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.

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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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