Slave Lake Fires: Records, Contracts and Where to Go From Here
| June 01, 2011
Short of the loss of life or limb, there can be little more devastating to a couple, a family, an individual than a natural disaster that causes the loss of personal property, especially when that property contains a home or a business.
Unfortunately, residents of Slave Lake, Alberta, were faced with this grim reality less than three weeks ago as wildfires swept through their town, burning hundreds of homes, offices and businesses. Now residents have started to return and people are starting to pick up the pieces.
There are three real estate brokerages in Slave Lake licensed by the Real Estate Council of Alberta . It is our understanding that two of the real estate brokerages have burnt down and one remains untouched by the flames.
Now that people are starting to return to Slave Lake, RECA has begun fielding calls from concerned industry members and consumers about what will happen in transactions that were underway. What to do about a consumer who has sold his or her home and purchased a new one, when the new home has burnt down but their old home has not? What about a seller brokerage agreement for a seller who is no longer interested in selling because the home they wanted to purchase is gone? Unfortunately, in many cases, there will not be easy answers.
RECA has dealt with at least one burnt down brokerage in the past, and in that case, industry professionals at the brokerage were advised to start recreating transaction records, to the best of their abilities, using copies of contracts obtained through lawyers, lenders and the consumers themselves. This time, though, the process of re-creation has been made more difficult because it is not just a single business that has been affected by the fire.
RECA is asking all affected industry professionals to begin the long process of gathering documents that have not been burnt. Call the real estate lawyers involved, call the mortgage broker, call the lender and call the local bank, if possible. Speak with anyone who may have copies of the documents and contracts in question.
Industry professionals should also ensure they have spoken thoroughly with the consumers involved in the transactions in question. Find out what they want to do in this incredibly unusual, and very much unprecedented, situation. Once you are clear on how the consumers want to proceed, a determination has to be made as to whether that course of action is legal. Of course, if all parties to the transaction do not agree with the suggested course of action, it is best to receive legal advice from a lawyer familiar with handling such disputes.
RECA knows Alberta real estate industry professionals always have the best interests of clients in mind – in this case, we ask that everyone be as patient as possible. Working together, professionally, will ensure things proceed as smoothly as possible in such a tragic situation.
For those industry members who have questions about record-keeping and transaction files that may have been destroyed by the fire, please speak with your broker. Brokers who have been affected by the fire and have questions are encouraged to call RECA and speak with information services or the compliance audit department.
Our thoughts are with the residents of Slave Lake as they return to their community and their thoughts turn to renewal and rebuilding. Extraordinary circumstances demand extraordinary response. To the real estate and mortgage brokerages in Slave Lake, you may rest assured RECA stands by ready to assist in any way we can and will continue, going forward, to be sensitive to these extraordinary circumstances in our professional dealings.
RECA has created SlaveLake@reca.ca; an email account specifically for inquiries from Slave Lake practitioners. This email address will receive priority response from the RECA departments to which the inquiries are directed.