COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Women with phone sitting at computer. Legislation & Policies

    FAQs for Rental Property Management


     
  • Tenanted Properties

    Tenants in properties listed for sale may have concerns about their rights with regards to showing the property. Facilitating open and clear communication between the tenants and your clients (sellers or landlords) is key to avoiding misunderstandings or disagreements. In particular:

    Discuss who will be responsible for any cleaning requirements and precautionary measures such as disinfecting doorknobs, railings, light switches, etc., following showings.Sellers and tenants should seek legal advice if a dispute around showings cannot be resolved.

    While the Ministerial Order is in effect, the landlord has the right to show premises only with consent of the tenant (except in exceptional cases where access is needed to respond to urgent health and safety concerns or to prevent undue damage to the units).

    If a tenant has been exposed to COVID-19 or has recently returned from travel outside Canada and must self-isolate, the tenant should inform the property manager. The property manager must provide that information to the landlord as it is material information. The landlord can then make decisions based on that information and have further discussions with the tenant and rental property manager.

  • Commercially Tenanted Properties

    Commercial landlords and tenants are not only subject to the terms and conditions of their leases, they must also adhere to municipal bylaws and restrictions. Changes to these bylaws can directly impact a commercial tenant’s ability to continue to offer their services. 


    During the pandemic, rental property managers of commercial strata lots should keep apprised of any restrictions or prohibitions being rolled out by provincial and municipal governments. By sharing that information with their landlord clients and tenants they can help ensure that landlords and tenants are aware of and able to comply with any new restrictions.
  • Collecting Rent (Rental Property Managers Only)

    Tenants are strongly encouraged to utilize online payment methods to pay their rent. Rental property managers should encourage tenants to make rent payments using a pre-authorized debit program or other online banking options. Ensure your brokerage is set up to receive electronic deposits by discussing this option with your managing broker.

  • Financial Assistance

    Some brokerages have requested support in securing financial assistance. Various levels of government are working on supports for small businesses, targeting industries that have been particularly hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. BC’s real estate regulators will continue to work with the rental property management industry to ensure continuity of services during these difficult times. 

  • Communication with Clients

    Brokerages are encouraged to make clear to their clients what their priorities are and how they will manage business during these times. It is understood that it is not business as usual, and that rental property managers will need to modify their priorities given the current extraordinary circumstances.   

    RECBC recommends engaging in open and transparent communications with clients to resolve any issues that may arise related to COVID-19 in the course of providing real estate services. The health and safety of all concerned – clients, members of the public, and real estate professionals – is the highest priority. 

  • Use of Unlicensed Assistants in rental Property Management

    Some rental property management brokerages have asked whether unlicensed assistants can take on additional responsibilities, to support operations and activities at this time. Rental property management services are defined in the Real Estate Services Act and are very specific. While unlicensed assistants can continue to support rental property management firms in liaising with and supporting clients, no changes to the regulatory framework are being contemplated at this time. Unlicensed assistants are not insured or trained to provide real estate services and must be overseen by a managing broker.    

    There is an exemption in section 2.14 the Regulation permitting caretakers and managers employed by a rental property management brokerage (i.e. in an employer/employee relationship with the brokerage) to 

    • Collect rent, security or pet damage deposits; 
    • Show the rental property to prospective tenants; 
    • Receive and present applications from prospective tenants; 
    • Supervise employees or contractors hired or engaged by the brokerage; 
    • Communicate between landlords and tenants with respect to landlord and tenant matters 

    Caretakers and managers must remember that any monies collected must be promptly turned over to the brokerage. Managing brokers are reminded that they are ultimately responsible for the conduct and actions of brokerage employees. 

    An unlicensed assistant who falls within this exemption must not negotiate or enter into a contract on behalf of the brokerage or the owner of the rental property. 

  • What to do if You are Unable to Follow RESA

    In these unprecedented circumstances, brokerages may find themselves in conflict with RESA or the Rules. If contravening legislation is inevitable, you should document the breach and the reasons.   

    Should a complaint arise you will then be able to provide evidence regarding the circumstances and the steps taken to manage the situation. 
     
    If a complaint should arise related to a real estate professional’s actions, RECBC would consider the matter in light of the current exceptional circumstances and the legitimate health and safety concerns that real estate professionals may have.  

  • Additional government Support for Landlords and Tenants

    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

  • Preparing Clients in Case of Further Disruptions

    As real estate professionals, it is very important that you communicate clearly and transparently with clients about their operations and service levels as this crisis continues. Respectful communications are critical to ensure continuity of service and to manage expectations. 

    Rental property managers and residents should consider documenting and sharing information on how their basic property systems function and what measures they can take for emergencies and basic operations. 

    FAQs for Strata Management


     
  • Strata Corporation Meetings

    The Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General has issued an order under the Emergency Program Act — will open in a new tab enabling all strata corporations to conduct electronic meetings (including Annual and Special General Meetings) during the provincial state of emergency. Strata councils already have the flexibility to hold strata council meetings electronically.

    This order applies to all strata corporations whether or not they already have a bylaw allowing electronic meetings.

    The ability to hold meetings using telephone conference calls or an online application, such as Skype or Zoom, helps strata corporations hold general meetings in accordance with the Provincial Health Officer’s order against gatherings of larger than 50 people and helps keep people safe during the pandemic.

    While restricted proxy meetings are a good option, the strata council may choose the best means for their strata, as long as it allows everybody to communicate with each other during the meeting. If an online meeting platform is chosen, alternatives for owners without a computer could include allowing some people to attend in person or by telephone, or to participate by proxy.The Province’s strata housing website has COVID-19 webpages — will open in a new tab with information for strata councils, owners, residents and stakeholders on cleaning, physical distancing, other precautions, paying strata fees and holding meetings.

    Republished with permission from the Office of Housing and Construction Standards (OHCS) — will open in a new tab  — will open in a new tab Housing Policy Branch

  • Communications with Strata Owners

    If holding an AGM or SGM, encourage strata unit owners who have recently travelled outside Canada or who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 and who are self-isolating to give another person their proxy vote.

    Provide information for strata owners about recommended sources of information on COVID-19, including:

    Provide information for strata owners on any increased cleaning measures that have been implemented in common areas.

  • Payment of Strata Fees

    At this time, all strata owners are expected to continue to make payments of strata fees in accordance with the terms of the Strata Property Act and their strata’s bylaws. 

    Strata owners are strongly encouraged to utilize online payment methods to pay balances on their account. Many strata managers are sending owners reminders for how to set up a pre-authorized debit program or other online banking options.  

  • Use of Unlicensed Assistants in Strata Management

    Some strata management brokerages have asked whether unlicensed assistants can take on additional responsibilities, to support operations and activities at this time.  Strata management services are defined in the Real Estate Services Act and are very specific.  While unlicensed assistants can continue to support strata management firms in liaising with and supporting clients, no changes to the regulatory framework are being contemplated at this time.  Unlicensed assistants are not insured or trained to provide real estate services and must be overseen by a managing broker.    

    There is an exemption in section 2.18 of the Regulation permitting caretakers and managers employed by a strata management brokerage (i.e. in an employer/employee relationship with the brokerage) to 

    • Collect strata fees; 

    • Collect contributions; 

    • Collect levies or other amounts levied by, or due to, the strata corporation under SPA 

    Caretakers and managers must remember that any fees collected must be promptly turned over to the brokerage or strata corporation.  Managing brokers are reminded that they are ultimately responsible for the conduct and actions of brokerage employees. 

  • Preparing Clients in Case of Further Disruption

    As real estate professionals, it is very important that you communicate clearly and transparently with clients about their operations and service levels as this crisis continues. Respectful communications are critical to ensure continuity of service and to manage expectations. 

    Strata councils and residents should consider documenting and sharing information on how their basic property systems function and what measures they can take for emergencies and basic operations. 

  • What to Do if You Are Unable to Follow RESA or SPA

    In these unprecedented circumstances, brokerages may find themselves in conflict with RESA, the Rules or the Strata Property Act (SPA). If contravening legislation is inevitable, you should document the breach and the reasons.  

    For example, if a strata management brokerage is not able to facilitate an AGM/SGM in accordance with SPA because of government guidance around limiting group gatherings, the brokerage should maintain written documentation why the AGM could not be held, and keep records of all written communications with their clients. 

    Should a complaint arise you will then be able to provide evidence regarding the circumstances and the steps taken to manage the situation. 
     
    If a complaint should arise related to a real estate professional’s actions, RECBC would consider the matter in light of the current exceptional circumstances and the legitimate health and safety concerns that real estate professionals may have.  

  • Financial Assistance

    Some brokerages have requested support in securing financial assistance.  Various levels of government are working on supports for small businesses, targeting industries that have been particularly hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.  BC’s real estate regulators will continue to work with the strata and rental property management industry to ensure continuity of services during these difficult times. 

    FAQs for Brokers


     
  • Working Remotely

    Under the Real Estate Services Act you should make sure that you are able to provide the same level of supervision for the real estate professionals and unlicensed staff that you manage, regardless of where you and others are working. When you are not in the same office, you should be accessible and connected to those that rely on you, for example, using technology that enables remote working. You are also responsible to monitor the trust bank accounts and related reconciliations. 

  • Delegation

    In these ever-changing times, you should make contingency plans for a situation where you might be unable to carry out your responsibilities under the Real Estate Services Act. You should already have a plan for emergencies in place, but if not, here is a reminder of two articles that RECBC has previously provided to help you: 

     
  • Deposits

    Explore whether your brokerage can accept electronic fund transfers directly into the brokerage trust account.

    Should the brokerage accept cash or cheque, keep apprised of your financial institution’s operating hours as these may change as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve.

  • Financial Reporting Deadlines

    In recognition of the exceptional circumstances and the additional business pressures that brokerages are under, RECBC and the Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate have temporarily extended the deadlines for regulatory reporting requirements for brokerages during this crisis.

    RECBC and the Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate (OSRE) are temporarily extending the deadlines for yearly filings known as Accountant’s Reports, to allow additional time for brokerages as they deal with the challenges of the current environment. Brokerages with filings due between March 1 and April 30, 2020 will have until June 1 to file their reports with RECBC. This does not absolve strata management brokerages of obligations under section 7-9 of the Rules which outline reporting requirements to client(s).

    Brokerages with filings due between March 1 and April 30 will be contacted directly by RECBC with more information about the temporary extension.

    To ensure ongoing public protection, RECBC will continue to strategically target audit activities based on risk and may request documentation and reporting from brokerages as required.
  • Real Estate and COVID-19 Webinars

    On April 1, RECBC hosted two webinars for brokers to share best practices and connect with others on the challenges they are experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. View recordings of each session at the links below:

     

    REAL ESTATE DURING A PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY: TRADING SERVICES AND COVID-19 — WILL OPEN IN A NEW TAB 
    Hosted by RECBC Professional Standards Advisor Marty Douglas and Manager of Professional Services for the British Columbia Real Estate Association Jennifer Lynch.

    MANAGING STRATAS DURING A PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY: STRATA MANAGEMENT SERVICES AND COVID-19 — WILL OPEN IN A NEW TAB 
    Hosted by RECBC Professional Standards Advisor Alex Longson, President of Strata Property Agents of BC Andrew Seaton, and Executive Director for the Condominium Home Owners’ Association of BC Tony Gioventu.

    RENTAL PROPERTY MANAGEMENT DURING COVID-19

    Hosted by RECBC Professional Standards Advisor Alex Longson, Tyann Blewett, Director of Policy at the Residential Tenancy Branch and Al Kemp of A.G Kemp & Associates, former CEO of the Rental Owners and Managers Society of BC and Executive Director of the Manufactured Home Park Alliance of BC.
  • Audit Outreach to Support Brokerages

    RECBC recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented business challenges for many brokerages. Some brokerages are operating on reduced hours, or with staff working remotely. Rental and strata management brokerages may be dealing with the additional demands of supporting tenants and owners to stay safe during the crisis. For managing brokers, this may add up to increased challenges when maintaining books and records, supervising real estate professionals, and overseeing brokerage activities.

    To support brokerages during this difficult time, and to help ensure the continuation of effective consumer protection, RECBC has initiated an audit outreach program. Because of restrictions on travel and physical distancing requirements, our auditors are not currently able to visit brokerages in person. Instead, over the next few weeks they are reaching out to contact brokerages by phone.

    When an RECBC auditor contacts your brokerage, you can expect them to ask you about how your business has been impacted by the pandemic. They will want to hear about how you may have adapted procedures to deal with the circumstances and ensure that you continue to meet your requirements under the Real Estate Services Act.

    This is also an opportunity for managing brokers to ask us questions. RECBC’s auditors are a resource for managing brokers, and can provide information about navigating the current challenges.  We appreciate that it is not “business as usual”, but the responsibility to ensure the integrity of public trust funds remains. In some cases, an auditor may request documents or schedule a remote audit following the initial outreach conversation.

    If you have questions about RECBC’s audit outreach initiative, contact our audit department directly to learn more, at [email protected] — will open in a new tab.

    FAQs for Real Estate Sales


     
  • Talk to Your Managing Broker

    Make sure that you understand your brokerage’s policies. Discuss concerns that you or your clients have with your managing broker, so that you can receive your managing broker’s advice

  • Communicate Clearly with your Clients

    Communication with your clients is fundamental to many aspects of real estate services. Complaints can happen when there is a gap between what your clients expect and what you deliver – and clear communication at the outset can help to close that gap.

    By discussing COVID-19 with your clients, you’ll understand any concerns they may have and you can work cooperatively with them to find a solution.  

    If you are concerned about exposing yourself to COVID-19, communicate this with your clients and try to find a solution. See Considerations for Listing Agents, Buyers Agents, Rental Property Managers, Strata Managers, and more below, for suggested topics to discuss with clients.

  • Deal Appropriately with your Clients' Concerns

    Take a proactive approach to issues as they arise, by listening to your clients’ concerns and clearly outlining steps that you can take to try to resolve them. Remember to document your efforts to resolve issues.

    If you have questions about how to manage professional issues that may arise in relation to COVID-19, contact RECBC’s Professional Standards Advisors. While they cannot advise you about COVID-19, they can provide guidance on the legislated requirements for real estate professionals and may be able to point you to other resources that could help.

    In general, RECBC recommends using common sense and engaging in open and transparent communications with clients to resolve any issues that may arise related to COVID-19 in the course of providing real estate services. The health and safety of all concerned – clients, members of the public, and real estate professionals – is the highest priority.

    If a complaint should arise related to a real estate professional’s actions, RECBC would consider the matter in light of the current exceptional circumstances and the legitimate health and safety concerns that real estate professionals may have. Despite RECBC’s position, if you determine that you have violated any legislation, or believe that violating legislation may be inevitable, it would be prudent to seek immediate independent legal advice.

  • Help your Clients Make Informed Decisions

    …but don’t provide advice that is outside of your area of expertise. Remember, and remind your clients that you are a real estate professional, not a public health expert.

    Direct your clients to recommended sources of information on COVID-19, and allow them to make their own decisions.

    Key information sources for up-to-date information about COVID-19 in BC include: