Buying, selling, renting or leasing property can be challenging and complicated, even in normal circumstances. COVID-19 creates new questions for consumers and can add significantly to the challenges of a real estate transaction.
To help real estate consumers navigate these unique circumstances, the Real Estate Council of BC (RECBC) has prepared the following guidance.
Can’t find the answer you’re looking for here? Our Professional Standards Advisors are available to answer your questions about real estate transactions and the services to expect of real estate professionals. Get in touch with one of our experts, at [email protected].
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 agree to do to facilitate the sale of your home. This includes provisions for showings.
If you are self-isolating you should not be permitting people to come into your home. Speak to your real estate professional about different options. This may include cancelling 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 making 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 and assists in limiting the spread of COVID-19.
I am a buyer who wants to view a property, but the owner won’t allow showings.
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 want to a view a property, but my real estate professional does not want to enter the home because of the risk of being exposed to COVID-19.
The government has encouraged everyone to take part in social distancing to “flatten the curve”. If it is not essential that you view the property immediately, you should wait.
If it is essential that you view the property now, you may wish to discuss with your real estate professional how you can view the property on your own and any risks that could arise from that.
If you have entered into a commission agreement with your real estate professional, you may be responsible for commissions that may be owed to them if they are not present for the showing. If you have entered into such an agreement you should seek legal advice as to your options.
Another option could be to ask your real estate professional to refer you to someone who is willing show you the property. The ideal option is to wait in order to ensure that you limit the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.
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 absolutely 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 absolutely necessary.
Key information sources for up-to-date information about COVID-19 and how to protect yourself are available here:
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 with their client whether they are permitted to disclose that to you.
Given the real estate professional’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.
What if I want to terminate a listing agreement or buyer agency agreement?
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.
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.
I’m a tenant and I am self-isolating because of exposure to COVID-19. How can I make sure the property isn’t shown during that period?
As a tenant you have certain obligations under the Residential Tenancy Act when it comes to facilitating entry into the property. If you are self isolating and do not want the landlord or their rental property manager to enter the property you should first discuss this with the real estate professional and/or landlord. You may also wish to consult the Residential Tenancy Branch — will open in a new tab and/or seek legal advice.
Who is responsible for sanitizing a tenant-occupied property before and after showings?
If your property is currently being shown and you are concerned about the sanitization of the property after these showings, you should speak to the rental property manager and/or the landlord regarding your concerns.
Ultimately, you may determine that it is in your best interest to ensure that the home is sanitized in a way that best protects you by doing it yourself.
You may also wish to discuss with your landlord or rental property manager whether showings can be grouped together in blocks of time to reduce the number of times your home requires cleaning.
Can I opt to pay my rent by electronic funds transfer instead of by cheque?
If you would like to pay your rent via electronic funds transfer (EFT), you should speak to the rental property manager about whether their brokerage is equipped to accept money electronically. If they are not, you may want to consider mailing a cheque or having someone deliver your rent on your behalf.
Under no circumstances should you provide an electronic funds transfer for payment of rent directly to the rental property manager’s personal bank account. All funds must be sent through the brokerage with which they are licensed.
The government has indicated that resources may be made available for income support and mortgage default support. Visit the federal government website — will open in a new tabfor further information as it is provided.
How can we hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM) or Special General Meeting (SGM) when there is a restriction on large gatherings?
The Strata Property Act requires that all AGM and SGMs, be in person unless it has been agreed upon by way of a by-law that the meetings can be held on the telephone or any other method. Review your by-laws and discuss your concerns with your strata council.
If your by-laws do not permit electronic meetings you may want to discuss with your strata council using proxies to minimize the number of people in attendance at the meetings. If you are unable to conduct an AGM or SGM your strata council should seek legal advice as to their obligations under the Strata Property Act.
Our strata council does not want to meet in person, is there an alternative?
The standard bylaws in the Strata Property Act do not require regular strata council meetings to be in person. If your strata council agrees to meet electronically, they are permitted to do so. However, you should review your specific bylaws to ensure that there has been no amendment to the standard bylaws that would disallow an electronic council meeting.
My neighbour is not feeling well…who must ensure the common areas are sanitized?
The agreement your strata council entered into with the strata management company would outline the provisions for common area cleaning. If you are concerned about the common area you should speak to your strata council. Your strata council may wish to get advice about sanitization from health and safety professionals as this would be outside of the strata manager’s area of expertise.
Can I pay my strata fees or fines by electronic funds transfer instead of by cheque?
If you would like to pay your strata fees via electronic funds transfer, you should speak to the strata manager about whether their brokerage is equipped to accept money electronically. If they are not, you may want to consider mailing a cheque or having someone deliver your strata fees on your behalf.
Under no circumstances should you provide an electronic funds transfer directly for payment of strata fees to the strata manager’s personal bank account. All funds must be sent through the brokerage with which they are licensed.