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Frequently Ask Questions

COVID-19 & Real Estate 

The Real Estate Council of BC is monitoring the evolving situation with COVID-19 as we Realtors continue to serve the public – in the safest way. We are all committed, in this challenging and quickly changing environment. We are receiving information to enable us to provide higher standard of service to consumers, and to protecting the public interest in real estate transactions.  

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Talking Points

First and foremost, the health and safety of our clients and their families our top priority. Including all agents and other individuals that are a part of the business process.

We are watching developments closely to guide our clients through this unprecedented period. RE/MAX has called for all brokerages to cease holding open houses for the time being.

While we cannot dismiss the financial uncertainty that has some people rethinking buying or selling, the general outlook among our agents is positive and upbeat - homes are still being listed and offers are being written.

For buyers and sellers whose income has not been impacted, they will be able to take advantage of an opportunity to secure rates at an all time low.

For those considering selling but reluctant to put their home on the market just yet now is the time to declutter and plan for home repairs.

FAQ

My home is listed for sale, but I’ve been exposed to COVID-19 and now I need to self-isolate. What should I do?

If your home is currently listed with a real estate professional, you have entered into a contract that outlines the details of what you and your real estate professional agreed to do to facilitate the sale of your home. This may include canceling showings until your isolation period is over or amending the term of your listing agreement. If you are unable to come to a satisfactory resolution with your real estate professional, you may wish to contact their managing broker your contract is with the brokerage and the managing broker will have the authority to assist you.

As a last resort you may want to seek legal advice about your contractual obligations and check with your local real estate board if you have signed an MLS listing contract. The real estate boards may have specific requirements about your property available to show. Ultimately in these unique circumstances the hope is that common sense will prevail, and all parties will be able to arrive at a solution that satisfies everyone's interests in assists in limiting the spread of COVID-19.

How are you going to handle the sale & showings to my home, and what if I have tenants?

Members are promoting their listings virtually and handling offers electronically as much as possible. These offers are being made subject to inspection; this means that the buyer makes the offer based on the listing information pictures and virtual tour. The deal is established by way of contract, subject only, to the buyer inspecting the property in person. Again, the informed consent of the parties for that inspection, with inappropriate nod to the health risk, tenants’ rights and following physical distance will be required.

Note #1: The real estate board relaxed rule 3.22 regarding showing availability and continues to strongly recommend that we refrain from holding open houses, avoid in-person interactions as much as possible and adhere to the most up-to-date physical distancing requirements from our government and public health officials.

Note #2: During the state of emergency landlords cannot issue new notices to end tenancy and existing orders are not enforceable. This includes situations where a new buyer has required vacant possession. Tenants who had intended to move and have now decided to remain in their unit during the state of emergency should let their landlord know as soon as possible.

Note #3: Landlords are not permitted to enter the rental unit without the consent of the tenant (even if proper notice has been served) unless there is risk to personal property or life. A landlord cannot enter the rental unit for open houses or to show the unit to perspective buyers without the consent of the tenant.

What if I want to terminate a listing agreement or buyer agency agreement because of the COVID-19?

If you want to terminate a listing agreement or buyer agency agreement with your real estate professional you should discuss your concerns with them, and/or their managing broker. As these are binding contracts both parties would need to agree to amend or cancel them. You may wish to also seek legal advice regarding your contract.

Does a seller have to disclose if they have COVID-19?

If you are concerned that a seller may have COVID-19, ask the listing agent. Real estate professionals have an obligation to act honestly, and on the lawful instruction of their client. If a real estate professional is aware that their client has been exposed to and or tests positive for COVID-19 they must discuss this with their client whether they are permitted to disclose this to you.

Given the real estate profession's obligation to act honestly, they would either need to answer the question (with the permission of their client) or refuse to answer the question.  They cannot provide an untruthful answer to an inquiring party.

I am a buyer who wants to view a property, but the owner won’t allow showings because of COVID-19, what can be done?

The government has encouraged everyone to take part in social distancing to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the disease. If it is not essential that you view the property immediately you may want to wait until the owner is willing to provide access.

If you need to view a property currently for sale and the owner will not permit you to view it in person, speak to your real estate professional about alternate solutions; video tours, photos or other options may be available to you. Should none of those options be acceptable you may have to wait or eliminate that property from your list.

I am looking to purchase a home.  How can I protect my family from risks of exposure to COVID-19 as a result of viewing properties?

The government has encouraged everybody to stay home unless necessary in order to “flatten the curve”.  By showing your home during this time you may be putting yourself and others at risk.  Ask yourself whether it is necessary, if so, please read the buyers checklist. – click here

Who must sanitize a property after closing?

The responsibility of the condition of a property upon closing is negotiated by the seller and buyer in the contract of purchase and sale. If you are unsure of the obligations of the parties regarding the sanitization of a property you may want to speak with your real estate professional and/or seek legal advice.

What additional support is provided for tenants and landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The new changes support tenants by:

 

  • halting new and active evictions, except for exceptional circumstances, so that no one is evicted because of COVID-19 and people can remain in their homes during this crisis;

  • helping renters pay a portion of their rent each month through a new temporary rental supplement of up to $500 per month, building on other federal and provincial financial supports;

  • freezing annual rent increases to ensure that landlords cannot apply an annual rent increase for existing tenants during the COVID-19 crisis;

  • supporting tenants in social distancing and self-isolation by providing them the right to prevent landlords from accessing rental units without the tenant’s consent (for example, for showings or routine maintenance), except in exceptional cases where access is needed to respond to urgent health and safety concerns or to prevent undue damage to the unit;

  • restricting methods of service for Residential Tenancy Branch disputes or notices to reduce the potential transmission of COVID-19 (no in-person service) and allowing service by email; and

  • allowing landlords to restrict the use of common areas by tenants or guests to protect against the transmission of COVID-19.

 

The new changes support landlords by:

 

  • providing a new temporary rental supplement of up to $500 per month, which will be paid directly to landlords, ensuring they continue to receive rental income during the pandemic;

  • preserving the ability for landlords to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for permission to issue a notice to end tenancy in exceptional circumstances, for example when the safety of landlord or other tenants is at risk;

  • allowing landlords to restrict the use of common areas by tenants or guests to protect against the transmission of COVID-19; and

  • restricting methods of service for Residential Tenancy Branch disputes or notices to reduce the potential transmission of COVID-19 (no in-person service) and allowing service by email.

 

*Information quoted from the Government of BC News Release on March 25, 2020

Are Open Houses permitted during the COVID-19 pandemic?

March 20, 2020,  Real estate professionals had to cease hosting open houses in the interest of public health and safety, and to use virtual options to market and show properties. To maintain physical distancing during in-person viewings, real estate professionals are advised to encourage pre-registration and/or schedule attendance to limit the number of individuals in a home at once. Other recommended measures include requiring the use of masks, sanitization procedures and signage, along with additional safety protocols for multi-tenanted properties. 

 

Update: July 8 2020, Open houses are now permitted in BC under new guidelines, we all need to follow the safety guidance to proceed. CAUTION: This change does not mean a return to pre-pandemic practices. Guidelines include – documenting consent, enforcing public health protocols & employing enhanced cleaning/hygiene practices.

 

Note: While today’s new guidance signals a cautious resumption of open houses, RECBC continues to advise that real estate professionals should limit face-to-face contact whenever possible and conduct showings only with serious buyers who have already viewed the home virtually.  

There has been great innovation in real estate services over the past three months. Real estate professionals have successfully integrated capabilities like 3D modelling, virtual video tours, and remote document execution into our regular practice, reducing the need for consumers to physically attend a property.  These practices will continue, in the interest of public safety.