COVID-19 Information for Real Estate Consumers

RECA understands that consumers may be concerned about how COVID-19 might impact their real estate transactions.

Whether you’re looking to buy, sell, rent out, or lease property, it is important to work cooperatively with your real estate licensees to decide what precautions or adjustments you may need to make to keep yourself and others healthy.

RECA expects real estate licensees to remain vigilant in these extraordinary circumstances, attempting to find ways to conduct business without compromise to the health and well-being of consumers, themselves, and their colleagues, and in accordance with whatever government restrictions are put in place. As such, RECA has advised real estate licensees to reach out to their clients to discuss the options available for mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 while continuing to provide high quality service. We have prepared the following information to assist you in working with your real estate licensees. Please note that none of this information should be used in place of information provided by medical professionals and the Government of Alberta.

RECA has prepared the following information to assist you in working with your real estate professional. Please note that none of this information should be used in place of information provided by medical professionals and the Government of Alberta.

Sellers, looking for quick tips? Read the new Ask Charles article on selling your home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Disclaimer: This information does not constitute legal advice. Consumers should seek legal advice based on their specific facts and circumstances. 

With many people losing employment and income during the pandemic, many lenders are modifying their practices to accommodate borrowers.

Below is general information on some of the programs, policy changes, or other services some lenders are offering to borrowers to ensure they can meet the requirements to borrow.

Please note, these are some programs offered by some lenders. Not all lenders offer these services, nor are they required to. Borrowers can speak to their lender or their mortgage broker about what specific lenders are doing to assist their customers.

Please Note: lenders have received a high volume of calls and are recommending people email. They can better manage a backlog of email than phone calls.

Payment Deferral Programs

Payment deferral programs which allow borrowers to skip up to six payments. These skipped payments should not affect the borrower’s credit score, but some reporting errors may occur, so borrowers are advised to monitor their credit and report any errors to the credit reporting agencies. Mortgage brokers should be able to assist with the reporting process.

Payment deferrals are not debt forgiveness. Depending on their lender and their own circumstances, there are several ways borrowers can repay the missed payments. Some methods may include: deferred payments in the mortgage balance and recalculate payments at renewal, an increase to each monthly payment once a borrower’s income is restored, or even by a lump sum.

Interest will accrue on the deferred payments, so it is best to defer only what is necessary. Possibly deferring for less than six months if your income returns sooner, or making partial payments rather than a complete payment deferral.

Loss of Income Between Closing Your Purchase and Possession Day

If you have a mortgage approval, but your deal has not yet closed (i.e. you haven’t taken possession yet) and your employment is interrupted, contact your mortgage broker/lender to discuss your options immediately.

Lenders have indicated that each situation will be evaluated on a case by case basis. Some lenders are accepting the various government assistance programs as income. You may also have an emergency fund that can bridge the gap until your employment is reinstated.

If your return to work is assured, you may be able to delay the first payment date. If you don’t know if you are going back to work, moving ahead with the mortgage may not be in your best interest. Be open and up front in discussing your situation with the mortgage broker and/or lender.

Also, given the pandemic and lenders modifying their practices to accommodate the massive loss of income across the country, talk to your mortgage broker about the possibility of obtaining new financing based on your new income level prior to your possession day.

Use of Modified Appraisals

Many lenders rely on automated valuation methods to validate the value of the mortgaged property, but there are situations when an appraisal is required. In those cases, lenders may accept a desk review or drive by valuation; however, certain situations require a full appraisal. This type of appraisal involves a physical inspection of the neighbourhood, and the interior and exterior of the home. Many appraisers and lenders have adjusted to the pandemic, and are now using video technology in concert with the occupants of the home in order to carry out the interior inspection. Many are also doing external inspections only. Most lenders will accept this form of modified full appraisal during the Covid-19 measures.

Digital Signatures

While some lenders have been accepting digital signatures for some time, now most lenders will accept verifiable e-signatures using a recognized digital signature process. This should apply to mortgage commitments and associated documents as well as creditor insurance agreements. Several lenders noted they still need a “wet ink” signature on Pre-Authorized Debit (PAD) forms to allow automatic withdrawal of payments. This will likely happen through the mail. Lawyers are arranging for virtual closing processes as well, so the entire process can happen without face-to-face contact.

Mortgage Insurance

Talk to your mortgage broker about your mortgage insurance options:

Before you have a conversation with your real estate licensee, asses your own personal risk tolerance with COVID-19. You should also understand the current measures set in place to keep our communities safe.

Understandably, while some individuals may want to exit the real estate market, others may choose to (or need to) continue buying, selling, leasing, or renting. Knowing your own comfort level with the risk of COVID-19 will inform your discussions with your real estate licensee.

Staying in the Marketplace

The first option is to stay in the marketplace while adopting strategies to reduce risk.  Your real estate licensee will advise you on possible strategies to make transactions safer, depending on if you’re a buyer, seller, landlord, or tenant:

  • screening buyers, sellers, or tenants. Your real estate licensee will discuss with you the possible questions to screen buyers, sellers, or tenants and their representatives. Sellers do not have to allow anyone in their residence when they feel an individual poses an undue risk to them or their family.
  • Use virtual communications to meet with your real estate agent.  If in-person meetings are required you and your real estate agent will need to agree on a protocol, such as maintaining a safe distance of at least two meters, wear gloves, etc.
  • Use electronic signatures for signing documents
  • Conduct financial transactions electronically, for example pay transaction deposits by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
  • reduce in-person viewing with photos and videos
  • buyers and their real estate licensees should travel to viewings separately
  • sellers and buyers can seek viewing conditions that reduce risk.  For example, sellers may require buyers and their representatives to base viewings on the use of gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer, with limits on what the buyers and their representative can touch i.e., only knobs and light switches. The buyers may ask for a video tour to reduce the number of physical showings, and may require that the lights be left on, and doors, closets, and some cabinets and drawers be left open. Your real estate licensee will document your directions in writing and communicate them to the other party’s representative. RECA has created forms to facilitate this (these are not mandatory forms. They can assist you and your licensee in discussing and agreeing to a path forward in writing. Also note that the viewing terms may be subject to negotiation between the parties, and may be impacted by the availability of gloves, masks, etc.):
  • Conditions to allow property measurement companies, virtual tour companies and home inspectors into the seller’s property
  • disinfect all high contact areas after viewings
  • If the listing agreement contains open house clauses, options to market the property in lieu of the open houses. 

Some real estate boards have listing rules that may impact these strategies.  Your real estate licensee will inform you when this is the case.

During the transaction you may be:

  • presented with COVID-19 clauses in the purchase contract
  • asked to amend the purchase contract to include COVID-19 clauses
  • asked to agree to COVID-19 liability releases for your representative or the other party’s representative

COVID-19 related clauses and liability waivers are relatively new. They may not be in your best interests. RECA strongly urges you to speak with your lawyer before agreeing to any such clauses or waivers. Your lawyer will assist you in understanding the implications of these clauses or waivers to your specific situation, and whether they are right for you. They will also be in a position to provide amendments to ensure your rights and interests are protected.

Leaving the Marketplace

Your second option is to eliminate risk and exit the real estate marketplace.  The options you real estate licensee will discuss with you are:

  • suspend viewings temporarily depending on rules from your professional’s local real estate board
  • end listings or buyer representation agreements and agree in writing to re-enter into these agreements at a later time

Agree to A Path Forward in Writing

Real estate licensees will suggest these decisions be documented in writing to ensure follow-through by both parties. Any amendments to representation agreements, including suspending agreements and intentions to enter new agreements need to be in writing.

Real estate transactions have multiple components which involve interactions with many regulated professionals. You may have a relationship with a real estate licensee, a property manager, and a mortgage broker. It is important to note what to discuss with every professional about any concerns, existing options, and preventative safety measures.

For instance, when working with your mortgage broker, you can mostly complete the mortgage application remotely. You can speak with your mortgage broker by phone or electronically, and you can organize a courier to drop off and pick up original contracts to minimize exposure.

Also, you should discuss any cleaning and precautionary measures or viewing conditions with home inspectors and real estate appraisers as you would for a viewing. You should also explore alternatives to the appraisal.  Some lenders will allow appraisals based on virtual tours or drive-by appraisals.

Real estate lawyers have amended their rules and you will no longer need to attend in person to sign documents to demonstrate your identity. Individuals should speak to their lawyer to address any concerns before meeting with them.

Information on COVID-19 for tenants: 

Government of Alberta – Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service

The Centre for Public Legal Education in Alberta – Landlords and Tenants

NEW Information Regarding Entering Rented Premises April 21, 2020: 

As per Ministerial Order 009/2020, the following modifications have been made to the Residential Tenancies Act:

  • A landlord, prospective purchaser or prospective renter is not entitled to enter residential premises for a reason that requires notice where:
    • a tenant in that unit has notified the landlord that they are self-isolating, or in quarantine as they are displaying symptoms consistent with the pandemic COVID-19 or have tested positive for COVID-19,
    • the prospective purchaser or tenant is self-isolating, or in quarantine as they are displaying symptoms consistent with the pandemic COVID-19 or have tested positive for COVID-19, or
    • the landlord is self-isolating, or in quarantine as they are displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or have tested positive for COVID-19, unless that landlord designates an agent to enter on their behalf who is not self-isolating or in quarantine.
  • Entry is still allowed if neither the tenant nor any person entering is self-isolating or in quarantine. A landlord can also enter if the tenant consents to the entry, if there is reason to believe the tenant has abandoned the premises, or if the landlord reasonably believes there is an emergency that requires the landlord to enter. Note that if a tenant gives consent, they can also withdraw this consent at any time.

COVID-19 Impacts on Appraisals

The CMBA created a bulletin containing more information about how appraisals are conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic.





I am the buyer/seller in a real estate transaction. My real estate professional (or another party) is proposing COVID-19 related clauses and liability waivers. Should I agree to them?

COVID-19 related clauses and liability waivers are relatively new. RECA strongly urges you to speak with your lawyer before agreeing to any such clauses or waivers. Your lawyer will assist you in understanding the implications of these clauses or waivers on your specific situation, and whether they are right for you. They will also be in a position to provide amendments to ensure your rights and interests are protected.



What can I do if I want to view a property, but the owner won’t let anybody in?

The government has encouraged everyone to take part in social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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 in-person viewings, you may want to speak to your real estate professional about alternate solutions such as video tours, photos, or another possibilities. If none of those options are acceptable, you may have to wait or eliminate that property from your list.



What can I do if I want to a view a property, but my real estate professional is concerned about the risks of COVID-19?

It is important to understand that real estate professionals must also self-assess their own risk tolerances when it comes to COVID-19.

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, and discuss any risks that could arise. One such option is to ask your real estate professional to refer you to another professional at their brokerage who is willing show you the property. If your professional is part of a designated agency brokerage, using a different professional will require an amendment to your service agreement allowing the new professional to act as your designated agent. This option will not create additional fees for you as you are still dealing with the same brokerage.

If all options have failed and you need to deal with a different brokerage you may still be responsible for commissions owed to them. In these situations you should seek legal advice as to your options. There may be circumstances where commissions may not be payable.



How do I sanitize my home to protect my family from potential contamination?

Various health organizations have compiled key information sources for up-to-date information about COVID-19 and how to protect yourself:



I’ve just returned from a vacation outside the country. Can I still have showings at my home?

The government has issued very clear and unequivocal instructions to self-quarantine for 14 days once you return. This means no physical interaction, period. This means you cannot even leave your home the day of a showing. Talk to your real estate professional about your options, including video showings, and possibly suspending your listing until the pandemic ends.

Remember that any amendments to service agreements, including pausing your listing, must be agreed to in writing.



I am in one of the most-at-risk groups for complications from COVID-19. Should I allow viewings?

The government has recommended that it is better for people aged 70 and over, or with pre-existing conditions, to stay at home and avoid contact. This would include strangers coming into your home for showings. Talk to your real estate professional about your options, including video showings, and possibly suspending your listing until the pandemic ends.



Do I have the right to ask buyers or sellers questions about COVID-19 and their health condition prior to visits?

Yes. However, they are not required to answer. Ask your real estate professional to talk to the buyer/seller’s real estate professional about this. You should also carefully consider the implications a buyer/seller who refuses to respond to the question.



I have a fully accepted offer but I no longer want to sell because of COVID-19: do I have the right to do this?

Most likely you do not have the right, as it would break a legally binding contract. The parties are bound by the terms of the contract. If you no longer wish to sell after signing the offer and acceptance, you could potentially be exposed to legal action by the buyer. You may also be required to pay commissions. Speak to your lawyer about the possible repercussions for your actions. Your lawyer may also be able to negotiate a termination to the purchase and sale contract with the buyer.



I don’t want someone in my property to measure using the RMS during the COVID-19 Pandemic. What can I do?

RECA does not require professionals to advertise the size of your property. If you’re uncomfortable with someone coming to measure your property, you can ask your real estate professional to not make a size representation. If their local board requires them to advertise a size, have them contact their local board to discuss if there are any size relaxations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As an alternative, you may want to contact home measurement companies and examine their pandemic preparations. Some home measurement companies have significantly altered their processes to reduce the infection of their customers and employees.



I have accepted an offer for the sale of my property. The buyer lost their job due to the COVID-19 crisis and his lender is now refusing to grant financing: what can I do?

Most lender commitments remain conditional on the borrower's (buyer’s) financial position remaining unchanged. In the case of a layoff, even a temporary one, there have been instances in the past where the lending institution has refused to finance the mortgage.

If this is the case, have your real estate professional speak to the buyer’s real estate professional and see what arrangements can be made to secure financing before the possession date. Speak to your lawyer and take the necessary steps to secure your best interest. One of the steps may involve having your lawyer speak to the trustee holding the deposits in trust, claiming the trust deposits.

Refer to the remuneration clause of your service agreement with your real estate professional to determine any commissions you may owe.



My home is listed but I am self-isolating. What can I do if I don’t want people viewing my property?

To list your home for sale with a real estate professional you will have entered into a seller representation agreement, (most often called a listing agreement) with your professional’s brokerage. This agreement is a contract that outlines what you and your real estate professional agree to do to facilitate the sale of your home, including any provisions for showings. Speak to your real estate professional about the different options.

RECA has prepared a checklist for all real estate professionals that they can discuss with you. The options include cancelling showings until your isolation period is over, or amending the term of your listing agreement to limit or prohibit viewings entirely. Your real estate professional should also check with their local real estate board about any relaxations for certain agreement obligations during this time, as the real estate boards may have specific requirements about making your property available to show.

If you are unable to come to agree on a path forward with your real estate professional, contact their broker. Your listing agreement is with the brokerage, not your individual real estate professional, and the broker will have the authority to assist you. If you can’t come to an agreement, you may consider terminating the representation agreement. However, this can result in you owing damages, so you may want to seek legal advice before you consider this option. Ultimately, in these times, the hope is that common sense will prevail and all parties will be able to come to a satisfactory solution.

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