COVID-19 Industry Notices

Effective Friday, July 16 at 12:01 a.m., in-person real estate open houses were allowed to resume in Ontario.

Face coverings in indoor public settings and physical distancing requirements (two metres apart) remain in place throughout Step Three. This is in alignment with the advice on personal public health measures issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada, while also accounting for Ontario-specific information and requirements.

Read the full Ontario Government Step Three regulation.

 
NOTICES

COVID-19 vaccination certification system

Updated September 24, 2021

As part of the Ontario government’s continued efforts to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, effective September 22, 2021, Ontarians need to be fully vaccinated (two doses plus 14 days) and provide proof of vaccination along with photo identification to access certain public settings and facilities.

The government’s announcement did not specifically identify requirements that would affect real estate brokerages, showings or open houses. However, all public health measures should be followed for any services taking place in a public setting.

We recognize that individuals involved in real estate transactions will have different needs and expectations to stay safe. Real estate professionals and brokerages play an active leadership role in their communities to maintain the health and safety of everyone involved in real estate transactions. We recommend that sellers, buyers, and their real estate representatives work collaboratively to implement measures that satisfy their respective needs.

The government’s vaccination certification system presents a renewed opportunity for the industry to take appropriate steps to keep people safe. We encourage everyone to follow public health guidelines, and to decide what makes them feel secure and protected during their interactions.

RECO continues to work closely with key stakeholders and is committed to communicating relevant updates to real estate professionals and consumers.

BACK TO TOP


COVID-19 and real estate: frequently asked questions

July 8, 2021

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

Open houses remain prohibited under Step One and Two of the Ontario Government’s Roadmap to Reopen. Property showings can proceed by appointment only, with masks, where physical distancing can be maintained. RECO strongly recommends that brokers and salespeople limit showings to situations where they are necessary.

Open houses will resume in Step 3, based on vaccination rate, key public health and health care indicators.

The legal limit for an open house is 50 people indoors, with masks and safety measures, 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.

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.

BACK TO TOP