COVID-19 and Real Estate

RECA encourages licensees to stay up-to-date on provincial public health guidelines. The sections below contain information and resources on COVID-19 that RECA has put together for your reference. None of this information should be used in place of information provided by medical professionals and the Government of Alberta.

All licensees should be discussing COVID-19 with their clients. As part of providing competent service, licensees are expected to work cooperatively with clients to find a solution for relieving the concerns of everyone involved.

You are not expected to be an expert on COVID-19. Take steps to understand the risk associated with property viewings, and if you are concerned about exposing yourself to COVID-19 by meeting with clients, communicate this to your broker and your clients in order to find a solution.

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


Discussions with Sellers

Real estate licensees should reach out to seller clients to talk through concerns and any alternatives available to them. You should be seeking to determine whether your client prefers a risk mitigation strategy or risk avoidance strategy.

Refer clients to the COVID-19 page on the Government of Alberta website. This page will have the most current information applicable to Albertans. Encourage sellers to assess their own risk based on their personal circumstances, if they are immuno-compromised or have a pre-existing respiratory condition, and seek advice from healthcare professionals as necessary.

Sellers need to be aware that COVID-19 and the strategies to mitigate risks may impact the sale of their property. Self-isolation strategies could give potential buyers more time to focus on their property purchase, but they could also impact potential buyers’ desire to view properties or complete a purchase.

Discuss the potential impacts of COVID-19 on the sale of their property with your seller clients and review the options that are available to them, like:

  • requesting health and recent travel information from potential buyers and their professionals before any showing to give the seller an indication of any risk. Buyers are obligated to either be truthful or simply decline to answer. Inform the seller that they have no duty to show the property if they are uncomfortable with any presented risk*
  • creating a marketing video showing a tour of the house to reduce the number of viewings
  • offering a virtual video tour so they can consider only allowing viewings for serious buyers who make an offer to purchase subject to a viewing*
  • making viewings conditional on buyer’s and their representatives wearing nitrile gloves, masks, or the use of anti-microbial, alcohol-based hand sterilizer, depending on the availability of these items. Remember the viewing terms may be subject to negotiation between the parties, and may be impacted by the availability of gloves, masks, etc.
  • making viewing conditional on the buyers and their representative not touching anything. This will require leaving all lights on, all closets and doors open, with a few drawers and cabinets open.
  • setting out obligations and procedures for viewings and home inspections in writing. RECA has created a Seller’s Condition to Access Premises Checklist to assist you in communicating the sellers direction to the buyer representative. RECA has also created a Occupant’s Condition to Access Premises Checklist to assist you in communicating the occupants direction to the buyer representative. These are NOT mandatory forms. They are tools professionals may use to assist them in their licensed activities. Remember the viewing terms may be subject to negotiation between the parties, and may be impacted by the availability of gloves, masks, etc.
  • having a plan to clean doorknobs, cupboard hardware, light switches, as well as surfaces in areas like bathrooms and kitchens before and after each showing or home inspection
  • taking all precautions necessary, including cleaning and sanitizing the home before and after any home inspections or open houses.
  • real estate licensees should not enter into new seller representation agreements that include hosting of open houses until the risk of COVID-19 spread is reduced and government lifts COVID-19 restrictions (virtual open houses are not impacted by this)

*Some real estate boards require properties to be available for viewing and prohibit the placing of viewing conditions by the seller. They may require properties be withdrawn from the listing service when the seller is uncomfortable with risks of showing the property, which may trigger the option to temporarily pull properties of the market. All Alberta real estate boards are cognizant that the placing of viewing restrictions may be appropriate during the COVID-19 crisis and are relaxing their requirements. Speak to your board to determine their listing requirements.

  • where feasible, communicate virtually using online meeting tools such as Zoom or Skype
  • use electronic signatures for signing documents
  • conduct financial transactions electronically
  • if in person meetings are required, maintain a safe distance of at least six feet (two meters) at all times for viewings and inspections:
    • take steps to limit the surfaces people will need to touch
    • require all visitors to wear gloves and masks, if available

The seller may also have the option to temporary pull their property off the market. Where applicable, check with your real estate board to determine whether they have relaxed their listing rules to allow viewings to be suspended. Update the seller representation agreement, accordingly.

The property may also be pulled off the market by terminating the listing entirely and entering into, and signing, a new agreement to re-list the property at a future date.

Discuss the pros and cons of each options with your clients, including how property inventory or prices may be affected during the current pandemic before pulling the property off the market.

Additionally, if the seller or someone in the seller’s household has tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating, licensees should discuss their concerns with their broker. The broker may not want to list the property while a health risk exists or may do so only if the risk is disclosed to potential buyers before viewing.

Download a checklist for discussions with seller clients for easy reference.

 


Discussions with Buyers

Real estate licensees should reach out to buyer clients to talk through concerns and any alternatives available to them. Refer them to the COVID-19 page on the Government of Alberta website. This page will have the most current information applicable to Albertans. Encourage buyers to assess their own risk based on their personal circumstances, if they are immunocompromised or have a pre-existing respiratory condition, and seek advice from healthcare professionals as necessary.

Buyers need to be aware that COVID-19 and strategies to mitigate it may impact their property searches for the time being. Self-isolation strategies could impact how properties are being marketed, if in-person viewings are available, or whether the sellers keep the property on the market.

Discuss the potential impacts of COVID-19 on processes around viewing properties and present options for mitigating risk to the health of all parties. These options could include:

  • only showing buyers properties that they are genuinely considering purchasing
  • placing viewing conditions, such as for the seller to leave the lights on and doors open, including a few cabinets, closets, and drawers to avoid touching any surfaces. RECA has created a Buyer’s Condition to View the Premises checklist for you to communicate the buyer’s viewing conditions to sellers.  This form is NOT mandatory. It is a tool to assist you in your trades in real estate. Remember the viewing terms may be subject to negotiation between the parties, and may be impacted by the availability of gloves, masks, etc.
  • having you request health and recent travel information from potential sellers and their licensees before any viewing to give the buyer an indication of any risk. Sellers are obligated to either be truthful or simply decline to answer. Inform the buyer that the seller also has the right to request this information of them and can decline to show the property if they choose. You may choose to seek out this information on your own behalf, even if the buyer tells you it’s of no concern to them
  • travelling in separate vehicles to viewings to limit the amount of time spent in close proximity to each other
  • taking advantage of virtual video tours for initial viewings of properties, understanding that some sellers may require an offer to purchase before viewings, to limit viewers to motivated buyers
  • taking precautions during viewings, including wearing nitrile gloves or using alcohol-based, anti-microbial hand sanitizer (subject to the availability of these items), and not touching, doorknobs, cupboard hardware, light switches or other surfaces unless necessary. Remember the viewing terms may be subject to negotiation between the parties, and may be impacted by the availability of gloves, masks, etc.
  • where feasible, communicate virtually using online meeting tools such as Zoom or Skype
  • use electronic signatures for signing documents
  • Provide deposits and conduct financial transactions electronically
  • if in person meetings are required, maintain a safe distance of at least six feet (two meters) at all times

Buyers could also choose to postpone the purchase process until a later date. Discuss the pros and cons of this decision and ensure you update the buyer representation agreement, with any amended dates and conditions.

You should discuss the pros and cons of these options with your buyer clients and, where appropriate, document the decisions in writing.

Download a checklist for discussions with buyer clients for easy reference.


Property managers should reach out to their landlord clients to talk through concerns. Refer them to the COVID-19 page on the Government of Alberta website. This page will have the most current information applicable to Albertans.

Landlords need to be aware that COVID-19 and strategies to mitigate it may impact tenants, property rentals, and property management requirements. Landlords need to be aware that COVID-19 and strategies to mitigate it may impact tenants, property rentals, and property management requirements. Your discussions should include the following topic below:

General Prevention

  • Common amenities in apartment buildings, with the exception of laundry facilities, should be closed to maintain social distancing
  • more frequent cleaning and disinfecting of shared spaces on properties
  • using high-quality air filters and changing them frequently over the next few weeks
  • communicating with tenants about initiatives being undertaken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as well as recommendations for tenants to assist in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Consider the various communication methods available, such as bulletin boards, paper notices under tenant doors, newsletters, etc. The best communication medium may be dependent on property type and your communication practices. Keep records of your communications to safeguard against possible legal action.

Marketing Rental Premises

Discuss the potential impacts of COVID-19 on processes around viewing properties and present options for mitigating risk to the health of all parties, including the departing tenant.

While the landlord has the right to show premises with proper notice, efforts need to be made to alleviate tenant concerns and communication and consultation with tenants is essential. Options for mitigating tenant concerns include:

  • placing restrictions on viewings to only serious parties
  • request health and recent travel information from prospective tenants before any viewing to give the current tenant an indication of risk
  • ask those viewing the property to wear a mask
  • clean doorknobs, cupboard hardware, light switches, as well as surfaces in areas like bathrooms and kitchens before and after each viewing

Contact Service Alberta for advice if a tenant refuses to allow the property to be viewed by prospective tenants.

Discuss with landlords that the demand for rental premises may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Landlords need to be aware this can be a long-term situation and they need to be careful with the types of decision they make respecting rent and tenancy terms.

Possible Government Decisions

Keep current with government initiatives intended to alleviate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. RECA will make best efforts to communicate these types of government initiatives with property managers. Landlords need to also take into consideration that access may be limited to the Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service and the courts.

Communication in the event of a COVID-19 report

Informed and regular communications with your staff, building contractors, and tenants are integral in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Encourage tenants to inform you should they test positive for COVID-19, so you can communicate to the landlord and take the appropriate steps to assist in quarantining the property.

If you manage multi-family residential complexes, this Case Study from BOMA Canada may provide information on what to do in the event one of your buildings has a positive test for COVID-19.

Business Continuity

If you are managing a large multifamily residential complex, discuss with the landlord your pandemic plans and business continuity processes. See the Commercial Property Management Response Planning section on this web page.

Protect your staff

Communicate with your brokerage staff and facility staff and contractors. Give them information about COVID-19 and tools and training to help tenants comply with guidelines designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Rent Deferrals and Defaults

Discuss with landlords the likelihood of rent defaults. Look for possible solutions. These solutions can include partial rent payments (better than no payment at all), use of the deposit to cover deficiencies with future rent, etc. Check the Government of Alberta’s website to see if there are any supports available to tenants or landlords.

Landlords may consider proactive communication. The communication may include providing tenants with information about government assistance programs, the kind of rent reduction or deferral programs they will offer tenants, and the kind of evidence tenants will need to provide to qualify for these alternative arrangements.

Tenants who may not be able to pay rent due to COVID-19 should take advantage of government assistance, and the possibility their insurance policies may help cover losses. Some policies may cover government-ordered closures. Landlords should also review their own insurance policies to determine whether they are covered for loss of rent.

Ask tenants to keep open lines of communication, and inform landlords if they are continuing to have difficulty paying rents. Landlords are being advised to be proactive and identify tenants who may have trouble with rent at this time.

Consider, with your client:

  • opportunities for tenants and the landlord to personally discuss issues
  • potential deferral plans for rent payments
  • potential rent reductions in order to keep tenants while having some income flow to the landlord
  • potential re-payment plans for rent deferrals
  • offering tenants assistance in applying for government grants or payments

Things landlords should consider when discussing rent deferment agreements:

  • financial position of the tenant
  • ability to resume normal operations
  • other tenant’s obligations and costs
  • availability of government assistance and private insurance
  • restrictions on landlords ability to make lease amendments
  • prospects for replacement tenants
  • history of cooperation between the tenant and landlord

Rent deferment agreements should include:

  • the portion of the rent that will be deferred
  • the deferment period
  • interest charges
  • the payment period
  • specific conditions that would result in automatic termination of the agreement, such as bankruptcy, insolvency, and termination of the initial lease agreement

Download a checklist for discussions with landlord and tenant property management clients for easy reference.

NOTE: The Mustard Seed is providing virtual training for property managers on how to engage with vulnerable persons who may frequent their properties.


Property managers should reach out to their tenant clients to get an understanding of their concerns, referring them to the COVID-19 page on the Government of Alberta website. This page will have the most current information applicable to Albertans. Encourage tenants to assess their own risk based on their personal circumstances, if they are immunocompromised or have a pre-existing respiratory condition, and seek advice from healthcare professionals as necessary.

Inform your tenant clients that their landlord may set viewing conditions, such as:

  • request health and recent travel information from prospective tenants before any viewing to give the current tenant an indication of risk
  • requiring prospective tenants to precautions during viewings, including wearing masks, or using alcohol-based, anti-microbial hand sanitizer
  • cleaning doorknobs, cupboard hardware, light switches, as well as surfaces in areas like bathrooms and kitchens before and after each viewing

Your tenant client may ask you to inquire about the decisions made by the landlord to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including processes for cleaning and viewing properties.

Contact Service Alberta for advice if a tenant refuses to allow the property to be viewed by prospective tenants.

Review the Pandemic Guide prepared by BOMA Canada for further information.

Download a checklist for discussions with landlord and tenant property management clients for easy reference.


Important information about how AHS investigates COVID-19 outbreaks

When a specific location has a reported case of COVID-19, AHS has a team of Contract Tracers to investigate any commonalities between the cases. Contract Tracers will trace back to all locations an infected person has visited since being diagnosed for COVID-19. An official outbreak is considered when the Contract Tracers have found 5 or more cases linked to a specific facility.

In a high-rise complex, if a particular commercial tenant is found to be a commonality between 5 or more cases of COVID-19, they will be advised that they have an outbreak. AHS will leave it to the commercial tenant to advise the building owner or manager that there is an outbreak in their space.

If the commonality is found to be from a common area such as a food court, this area is considered to be an outbreak location. Building owners or managers will be notified of this situation. Cases in outbreak locations are turned over to the Health Inspector and will be investigated further.

Bill 23, the Commercial Tenancies Protection Act, protects commercial tenants from having their leases terminated due to not paying rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Information: the Government of Canada announced the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program on April 24, 2020. Details:

  • The program will provide forgivable loans to qualifying commercial property owners to cover 50 per cent of three monthly rent payments that are payable by eligible small business tenants who are experiencing financial hardship during April, May, and June.
  • The loans will be forgiven if the mortgaged property owner agrees to reduce the eligible small business tenants’ rent by at least 75 per cent for the three corresponding months under a rent forgiveness agreement, which will include a term not to evict the tenant while the agreement is in place. The small business tenant would cover the remainder, up to 25 per cent of the rent.
  • Impacted small business tenants are businesses paying less than $50,000 per month in rent and who have temporarily ceased operations or have experienced at least a 70 per cent drop in pre-COVID-19 revenues. This support will also be available to non-profit and charitable organizations.

Talk with your landlord and tenant clients about the program.

Government of Alberta News Release about CECRA

Develop a COVID-19 plan

Property managers should develop a COVID-19 plan for clients’ properties. While the plan should be specific to the particulars of each property, the plans may be quite similar. For most property managers the COVID-19 plan would be an adaptation of their business continuity and pandemic plans.

Your plan should include:

  • brokerage’s essential business functions
  • buildings essential business functions
  • critical supply chains for the building
  • cross-training staff in systems and for different buildings
  • allowing brokerage staff to work from home where possible
  • flexible worksites to allow for increased social distancing
  • increased cleaning practices (common counter tops, doorknobs and handles, elevators, escalators, bathrooms). This may include making additional making arrangements with external suppliers
  • storage of additional quantities of essential supplies
  • increased security for closed buildings
  • coordination processes with emergency services
  • impact on common services (e.g. Plus 15 in Calgary)
  • drafts of communications in the event of a confirmed case

BOMA Canada’s Pandemic Guide is a great resource if your brokerage hasn’t developed a plan. They have also recently hosted a webinar on Coronavirus and Commercial Real Estate. Watch the video (case study starts just after the 20 minute mark) or read the case study on responding to a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a commercial building on RECA News.

Your COVID-19 prevention plan is likely to be a work in progress, and will be changed as circumstances change. Stay engaged and follow provincial and federal government direction.

Complying with Government Orders

Both tenants and landlords need to adapt to new government orders on short notice. When conflicts arise between government orders and an obligation specified in a lease, compliance with applicable laws trumps all other clauses. This is usually spelled out in an applicable laws provision in the lease.

For example, tenants are accustomed to quiet enjoyment clauses, where the landlord cannot interfere in their possession of a premises as long as they fulfill their lease obligations. Under the pandemic, emergency orders from governments to close buildings will likely not breach these clauses. It is out of the landlord’s hands at this point.

Communicate with Landlords

RECA encourages property managers including landlords in their COVID-19 response planning.

Discuss any implemented or planned measures for preventing the transmission of COVID-19 in their building, and review the communications you have planned for staff, building contractors, and tenants. Seek your client’s feedback and, where applicable, budgetary approval for implementing the COVID-19 plan. Get every decision in writing to demonstrate to clients that landlords have taken action during this time.

Report all special circumstances regarding tenants.

Possible strategies

  • increased frequency and scope of cleaning and sanitation for common areas and high-touch points like elevators
  • placing hand sanitizers in lobbies and common spaces
  • launching hand washing campaigns, using posters and social media posts and elevator screens
  • explore changes to HVAC processes. While not corroborated by health agencies, information suggests increased air exchange that still allows for normal heating and cooling reduces the potential for virus transmissions. There is the potential to explore filter quality
  • deferring non-essential maintenance practices to off-hours or a later date

General Communication

Informed and regular communications with your staff, building contractors, and tenants are integral in stopping the spread of COVID-19 as well as mitigating panic.

  • consider closing common areas and amenities
  • post best hygiene and social distancing practices in common areas, as well as email
  • remind staff and contractors of the expectation that they stay home when sick
  • suggest tenants encourage their employees to stay home when sick, and allow employees to work from home where feasible
  • request that tenants inform their property manager when:
    • one of their employees has tested positive for COVID-19
    • they decide to temporarily cease operations from the rental premises during the pandemic as additional security may be required*

You may also wish to share the security information posters developed by Calgary Police Service:

Rent Deferrals

You should also discuss rent reduction or deferrals, including options and implications such as criteria that will be employed to judge the need for a reduction or deferral. The likelihood of renting out the space to a new tenant in this marketplace is small. Making concessions on rent can help keep tenants in business and in the buildings.

Tenants who may not be able to pay rent due to COVID-19 should take advantage of government assistance, and the possibility their insurance policies may help cover losses. Some policies may cover government-ordered closures. Landlords should also review their own insurance policies to determine whether they are covered for loss of rent.

Ask tenants to keep open lines of communication, and inform landlords if they are continuing to have difficulty paying rents. Landlords are being advised to be proactive and identify tenants who may have trouble with rent at this time.

Consider, with your client:

  • opportunities for tenants and the landlord to personally discuss issues
  • potential deferral plans for rent payments
  • potential rent reductions in order to keep tenants while having some income flow to the landlord
  • potential re-payment plans for rent deferrals
  • offering tenants assistance in applying for government grants or payments

Things landlords should consider when discussing rent deferment agreements:

  • financial position of the tenant
  • ability to resume normal operations
  • other tenant’s obligations and costs
  • availability of government assistance and private insurance
  • restrictions on landlords ability to make lease amendments
  • prospects for replacement tenants
  • history of cooperation between the tenant and landlord

Rent deferment agreements should include:

  • the portion of the rent that will be deferred
  • the deferment period
  • interest charges
  • the payment period
  • specific conditions that would result in automatic termination of the agreement, such as bankruptcy, insolvency and termination of the initial lease agreement

Business Continuity

Property managers are encouraged to consult with clients and to consider options as any decisions made now will determine asset value and health at the end of this crisis. To do this property managers may want to prepare a tenant base report that includes:

  • the tenant’s current and future operational status
  • the tenant’s history
  • whether the tenant has business interruption insurance
  • existing and potential future risks
  • the overall financial risk per tenant

Reforecast budgets and make new strategic revenue assumptions for the properties based on various COVID-19 recovery scenarios.

Property managers need to discuss the need to maintain access to essential businesses and critical business areas (such as a network servers) while securing areas no longer in use.

Property managers need to discuss with their clients the property’s operating costs, how to reduce these costs as a result of reduced occupancy and the possible allocations for these costs. This can then form part of the discussions with tenants.

Property managers also need to have discussions with their clients regarding re-opening plans. This will include how to market the premises after tenant closures. Future leases may be challenging as tenants could be increasingly hesitant. The current work from home environment may have proven successful for some businesses and may result in tenants requiring reduced office space.

Long-term impacts on tenant space can result in increased emphasis on social distancing, touchless technology. Retail tenants may be impacted (positively or negatively) by a greater consumer focus on online shopping.

NOTE: The Mustard Seed is providing virtual training for property managers on how to engage with vulnerable persons who may frequent their properties.

BOMA Calgary, BOMA Edmonton and RECA agreed to collaborate to develop materials targeted to Commercial Property Managers

 


RECA understands this is going to be a difficult time, both for your brokerage’s clients who may be concerned about proceeding forward with a transaction in light of the concerns associated with COVID-19 as well as the mortgage licensees in your brokerage.

Your clients’ financials could be impacted by the pandemic (lay offs, closures, the need to self-isolate). Make sure your associates discuss with their clients any COVID-19 implications on their mortgage transactions.

Lender Modifications

As you know, many lenders are modifying their practices to accommodate borrowers who may have lost their income or employment. Talk to your lenders to see what payment deferral programs they may have. And for your clients who lose their employment or income between obtaining an approved mortgage and the actual funding of the mortgage, 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. If your client’s return to work is assured, they may be able to delay the first payment date. If they don’t know if they are going back to work, moving ahead with the mortgage may not be in their best interest. Have a discussion and advise them accordingly.

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.


In light of the pandemic, mortgage licensees may need to address two key factors in their dealings with clients:

  • Social distancing: when you represent borrower clients, social distancing will change the methods you use to verify their identity. Check with your lenders on their suggested methods for identity verification when not done in person. Review RECA’s Guidelines for Mortgage Broker/Associate Originated Applications and check with your professional associations for their guide.
  • A change to the borrower’s income situation:  these changes could result in withdrawal of financing after the condition has been removed. Mortgage brokers will need to work closely with lenders and real estate professionals to find solutions that do not unduly penalize any of the parties to a transaction for these situations. Speak with your broker about any brokerage policies they may be enacted during this time.

Lender Modifications
As you know, many lenders are modifying their practices to accommodate borrowers who may have lost their income or employment. Talk to your lenders to see what payment deferral programs they may have. And for your clients who lose their employment or income between obtaining an approved mortgage and the actual funding of the mortgage, 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. If your client’s return to work is assured, they may be able to delay the first payment date. If they don’t know if they are going back to work, moving ahead with the mortgage may not be in their best interest. Have a discussion and advise them accordingly.

Mortgage professionals may also receive calls from borrowers experiencing difficulties in making payments due to income interruption or reduction. Many lenders and the mortgage insurers have programs to alleviate the payment burden.

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 pandemic.

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.


RECA has become aware of COVID-19 of contract clauses for use in purchase contracts and liability waivers circulating among residential real estate professionals. These COVID-19 clauses and liability waivers may not be in the seller’s or buyer’s best interests and can have significant impacts on buyers and sellers.

Prior to inserting any clause(s) into purchase contracts or presenting your clients with liability waivers, industry professionals should advise their clients that the clauses and documents might no be in their best interest, and to seek advice from their lawyer to ensure the clause(s) serve the client’s best interests.

Any clause included in a contract to address circumstances surrounding COVID-19 should be drafted and reviewed by legal counsel to ensure enforceability and to ensure the clause addresses the specific scenarios adequately.

If a client chooses not to have COVID-19 contract clauses or liability waivers reviewed with their lawyer, real estate professionals should document their refusal in writing.

The COVID-19 situation evolves quickly. See the sections above for information and recommendations for your area(s) of practice.


Q

A

I’ve just returned from a vacation outside the country. Can I still work with my clients from home?

The government has issued very clear and unequivocal instructions to self-quarantine for 14 days once you return. Brokers should ensure all associates and employees follow this order, and ensure that when necessary, their duties are taken over by another associate or employee.

You may be able to perform some of your duties remotely, but please remember that you must act in your client’s best interest. Is it in their best interest for you to continue to represent them in person during your 14-day quarantine? If physical meetings are required, consider designating another representative from your brokerage to work with your clients during your quarantine. Any amendments to service agreements, including adding designated agents or changing brokerage representative information must be agreed to in writing.

Q

A

I'm an industry professional and I’m in one of the most-at-risk groups for complications from COVID-19. Can I work?

There is no ban on working, as real estate agent services have been designated an essential service. However, the government recommended that it is better for people aged 70 and over, or with pre-existing conditions, to stay at home and avoid contact. As far as the situation allows, give priority to teleworking using the technological means available, such as conference calls and electronic signatures. If you are unable to work and must withdraw temporarily, you must inform your broker and your clients.

Q

A

I have clients in the most-at-risk groups for complications from COVID-19. Should I work with them right now?

The government recommended that it is better for people aged 70 and over, or with pre-existing conditions, to stay at home and avoid contact with other people. In this context, you should contact your client and discuss with them the options available, based on his situation (e.g. video showings, electronic contracts). Make sure any change to your service agreement is in writing and agreed to by your brokerage. You should also discuss terminating your service agreement during the pandemic and entering a new agreement once things return to normal.

Q

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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.

Q

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Should I plan for longer condition periods when drafting a offer to purchase?

This depends on the availability of the professionals involved (home inspectors, mortgage
brokers, etc.). It would therefore be prudent to contact the professionals associated with the conditions beforehand to discuss options and availability. In the current environment, it may be advisable to allow for longer time periods for the fulfillment of conditions.

If you have taken steps to allow for more time, keep in mind that you may have to extend these deadlines even further. If that is the case, you will need all parties to agree to extend the condition period in writing.

Q

A

Can the various deadlines in an Offer to Purchase be extended?

Yes. If all parties agree, in writing, they can extend deadlines. This must occur BEFORE the deadlines occur. You cannot amend a contract that has expired, as by definition, it is null and void, and no longer an enforceable contract. If the parties wish to continue to make a deal but the original offer has expired, the parties must draft and accept a new Offer to Purchase.

Q

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I have a fully accepted offer and my client no longer wants to sell because of COVID-19: do they have the right to?

Most likely they do not have the right, as it would break a legally binding contract. The parties are bound by the terms of the contract. If your client no longer wishes to sell after signing their offer and acceptance, they could potentially be exposed to legal action by the buyer. They may also be required to pay commissions. Tell your client to speak to their lawyer so that a lawyer can explain the possible repercussions for their actions. Their lawyer may also be able to negotiate a termination to the purchase and sale contract with the buyer.

Read the terms of contracts carefully.

Q

A

What if my client doesn't want someone in their property to measure using the RMS during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

RECA does not require professionals to advertise the size of a property. Industry professionals who are not members of a local real estate board can choose not to advertise a property size. As such if your client is uncomfortable with someone coming to measure their property, they can choose not to make a size representation.

Industry professionals who are members of a local real estate board must follow all rules established by their board. Many of these rules relate to data integrity.

Clients should be aware there might be other professionals who may need access to the home, such as home inspectors, virtual tour companies and buyers intending to view the property. You can discuss with the seller the kinds of safeguards that can be taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and see if there is a suitable solution.

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My buyer learned they are infected with COVID-19 after their’s conditional offer to purchase was accepted by a seller; how can I assist them to fulfill the conditions?

First, obtain the buyer's consent to inform the seller of the buyer's situation and state of health. The parties may agree amongst themselves, in writing, to extend the deadlines for the fulfilment of the conditions. Use electronic signatures for signing documents. Another alternative is for your client to speak to their lawyer about granting a power of attorney to a trustworthy person for the fulfilment of conditions and for the subsequent steps of the transaction in order to minimize delays.

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My seller client has an accepted offer for the sale of his 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, speak to they buyer’s real estate professional and see what arrangements can be made to secure financing before the possession date. Advise your client to speak to their lawyer and take the necessary steps to secure your client’s best interest. One of the steps may involve speaking to the trustee holding the deposits in trust, claiming the trust deposits.

Regarding your remuneration in such a situation, refer to the remuneration clause of your service agreement with your client.

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My buyer client has an accepted offer for the sale of his property. They 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, speak with your buyer and see what arrangements can be made to secure financing before the possession date.

The terms of trust in the Offer to Purchase will dictate if your client is entitled to the return of any or all of their deposit. Advise your client to seek legal advice concerning the possibility of the return of any deposits held in trust.

Regarding your remuneration in such a situation, refer to the remuneration clause of your service agreement with your client.

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A buyer is interested in viewing my property. The buyer and/or their representative is refusing to provide health information, or the health information they are providing is of concern to me. Do I have let the buyer and their representative view the property?



You are not obligated to show the property if you are uncomfortable with your perception of the health risk associated with the viewing. If your property is listed with a real estate board, the board may have rules requiring the showing of properties. This may require you to withdraw the listing.

Board rules may also impact your desire to place viewing conditions, such as requirement to view properties with gloves and masks or only allowing viewings to those buyers who make an offer to purchase subject to a viewing to limit viewings to serious buyers. Discuss these options with your client. Some real estate boards are relaxing viewing conditions in light of COVID-19 developments.



These government programs may help your brokerage, your business, or your personal finances if you may be struggling financially during the global health crisis.

These programs are intended to aide those who are not able to meet their basic needs through their current income. Having your brokerage defer commission payments so you can continue to receive relief money from the government is a form of fraud. You and your broker could face sanctions and criminal charges. 

Federal Incentives:

Avoid the math by using the CRA’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Calculator

For more information watch the CRA’s What you need to know about the 75% wage subsidy video on YouTube

  • Other CRA measures to help small businesses
    • Canada Child Benefit (CCB) boosts to $300 per child
    • CRA will recognize electronic signatures as having met the signature requirements of the Income Tax Act temporarily
    • Audits: No more post assessment GST/HST or Income Tax audits for the next four weeks
    • Collections: Collections activities on new debts will be suspended until further notice, and flexible payment arrangements will be available. More details here.

Alberta Incentives:

  • Changes to the Alberta Employment Standards Code:
    • Job-protected leave for employees caring for children affected by school and daycare closures or ill or self-isolated family members due to COVID-19
      • The 90-day employment requirement is waived
      • The leave length is flexible and linked to guidance from the Chief Medical Officer
      • A medical note is not required
      • Regular person and family responsibility leave rules continue to apply for all other circumstances
    • Removing 24-hour written notice requirement for shift changes
    • Removing the requirement for 2 weeks notice for changes to work schedules for those under an averaging agreement
    • Removing the employer requirement to provide group termination notice to employees and unions when 50 or more employees are being terminated
      • Individual termination entitlements remain in effect
      • Employers must still give group termination notices to the Minister of Labour and Immigration as soon as is practical
    • Increasing the maximum time for temporary layoffs from 60 days to 120 days
      • This change is retroactive for temporary layoffs related  to COVID-19 that occurred on or after March 17
    • Streamlining approvals for modifying employment standards (variances and exemptions) related to COVID-19
  • Alberta Banks:
    • ATB financial customers impacted by COVID-19
    • Alberta credit unions
      • Credit union members (including small businesses and personal banking) will have access to programs and solutions to ease difficulties with loan payments and short-term cash flow – applies to municipal government

Visit the Government of Alberta’s website for COVID-19 support of employers and employees.

Canadian Federation for Independent Business has additional resources for Alberta’s COVID-19 relief measures for businesses


Just because we’re in a global health crisis, doesn’t mean fraudsters have stopped preying on the public. In fact, the crisis has created new opportunities for criminal activity. Watch out for the scams below, and remember to remain vigilant with your online activity. We will update this section as more scams are shared with us.

  • Video Conference Scams
    • With more people using video-conferencing websites to interact, fraudsters are exploiting the situation by creating fake sites and stealing contact information. Make sure you access well-known video-conferencing websites through their official websites, and don’t click on any meeting invites in your email or messages where you don’t know the sender, or, if you know the sender, make sure the invitation is legitimate before clicking
  • Vendors Invoice Scams
    • With more activity happening digitally, scammers are taking advantage by sending fake invoices to businesses. Please verify all invoices, and do not pay any through links in emails or messages. Be vigilant.
  • Door to Door Sales
    • Be on the lookout for some “salespeople” selling specialized air filters which filter out the COVID-19 virus. However, these filters are unapproved generic furnace filters repackaged for individuals to think otherwise. Avoid advertising a property with filters that eliminate COVID-19. Sellers may be liable if a buyer discovers that the claims are false.
  • Red Cross
    • Imposters from the Red Cross and asking for “donations” for offering free medical products such as masks and gloves. However, after the donations are received, no masks or gloves are provided.
  •  Lender deferrals
    • Be aware of emails from financial institutions asking consumers for their private information to see if they qualify for a mortgage or rent deferral, especially institutions you haven’t dealt with before. If you receive any emails like this, don’t click on links to provide confidential information. Call the lender first to verify whether the email is legitimate.

At this time, RECA will be closing its office to walk-ins, indefinitely. As always, RECA staff will be available by phone and email for any questions or concerns with regards to your licence, education, or practice. Time constraints, such as licence expiry deadlines, will be taken into consideration.

The self-regulation of the Alberta real estate industry will be maintained, with practice reviews and investigations continuing, with some adjustment:

  • Licensing: Due to the shuttering of non-essential service providers in Alberta, including private fingerprinting agencies, the executive director is prepared to temporarily waive the requirement for a prospective industry professional to provide a current, original CCRC as part of their licensing eligibility requirements. Please contact licensing@reca.ca for more information.
  • Trust Assurance and Practice Review: RECA will connect individually with brokerages to assess comfort with practice reviews taking place on site, and finding alternatives, when necessary
  • Conduct Investigations: RECA will continue to investigate reports of misconduct by licensees, communicating electronically or by phone
  • Regulatory Compliance Advice: RECA Regulatory Compliance Advisors will be available to conduct virtual brokerage meetings, including sessions on how to talk to clients about COVID-19

In person exams are available. To book your in person exam you must click “book yardstick exam” in your myRECA account once your course status is at Ready for Exam.

Online Exam Proctoring Available

Learners can write exams through a virtual proctoring system that can be accessed through your myRECA account, under current courses. You will be able to start this process once you have completed your practice exam through myRECA and your course status changes to Ready for Exam.

You will then see a payment option under exam activities. Click “complete payment” to pay for the exam. Exams cost $150 to write—the same price as regularly proctored exams at test centres. After the payment has been processed, go back to current courses and click “begin exam” under the exam activities column.

Before beginning your exam, RECA recommends that you familiarize yourself with RECA’s exam rules.

Once you are sure you understand the exam rules, click “begin exam” to open the platform to complete your exam. From there, click “final exam” to begin. The virtual proctor will require a government issued photo ID to verify your identity before taking the exam. You will have 3 hours to complete and submit the exam.

You will be able to re-write exams in the event you are not successful in your first attempt.

We expect many learners will want to begin this process right away and may have questions. This process is new for you and our team. Please be patient with our Learner Support team. Consider emailing your questions to education@reca.ca as an alternative to calling.


There are simple steps you can take to stop the spread of all viruses, including the novel coronavirus:

  • Wash your hands regularly, using the proper hand washing technique
  • avoid shaking hands
  • maintain 6 feet of physical distance between you and other people, wherever possible
  • avoid touching your face
  • use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • use alcohol-based cleaning wipes on frequently touched surfaces

If you start to exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, self-isolate and call Health Link (811) for additional precautions.

If you need to self-isolate, immediately notify your broker and follow the recommended instructions for self-isolation:


Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA)

COVID-19: Relaunch of Open Houses

COVID-19 Updates and Latest Recommendations

Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA)

Pathway Back to Work 

REALTORS® Association of Edmonton

COVID-19 and Open Houses

Update from Alberta Land Titles

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the Land Titles Offices in Calgary and Edmonton have closed in-person counter services. Land Titles business in all other respects, including SPIN2, continues to operate as usual.

Alberta Land Titles would like to assure you that they will do everything possible to maintain an acceptable level of service and thank you for your cooperation.

Questions can be directed to Land Titles Offices at:

Calgary Phone: 403.297.6511
Edmonton Phone: 780.427.2742
Email: LTO@gov.ab.ca

Land Titles Document Drop Off and Pick Up Procedure Change

In order to reduce exposure risk resulting from the spread of COVID-19, and to help ensure the health and protection of their clients and colleagues, Land Titles and Surveys Branch has modified document drop off and pick up processes. These measures only impact physical delivery of packages. Normal services for examination, SPIN2 and phone support continue to operate as usual.

Changes to delivering documents to Land Titles Offices effective immediately:

  • Documents submitted to Land Titles Offices are to be placed in the after-hours drop box. Land Titles staff will retrieve documents regularly throughout the day and will handle all time dependent documents as per usual procedures.

Changes to document pick-up call boxes at Land Titles Offices effective immediately:

  • There is no change in process for clients who currently have a call box. Access is available as usual during office hours (8:15 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.).
  • There are limited call boxes available in Edmonton and Calgary for those who wish to obtain one. Account holders who wish to obtain a call box must contact 780-422-4612.
  • Requests will be fulfilled on a first come, first served basis.
  • In Edmonton, all requests where the return instruction selected is ‘pick-up’, packages will be mailed out to the address provided on the Document Registration Request (DRR)
  • In Calgary, all requests where the return instruction selected is ‘pick-up’, packages will be mailed out to the address provided on the Document Registration Request (DRR) and can still be picked up in a new self-serve location in the building. Signage will be posted to direct couriers or firms to the new location.
  • All documents currently in the pick-up location in Edmonton will be mailed out to the address provided.

 

The Law Society of Alberta

The Law Society has developed the following guidance for lawyers to support them in the delivery of legal services in the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an unprecedented situation, and flexibility and diligence is required to ensure continuity of essential legal services without risk to public health. Public health agencies have made numerous recommendations to reduce the risk of transmission, including social distancing and self-isolation. Please continue to monitor ongoing news releases to ensure you have current information.

For lawyers, many legislative requirements and risk management measures require in-person contact with clients and others. The Law Society is not able to relax the rules which require in-person execution of testamentary documents, transfers of title, and sworn affidavits because these are rules created by statute. This means that only the Government can change these rules via statutory amendment. The Law Society will be speaking to Government about this in the hopes of getting ‘urgent’ statutory amendments made. We will keep the profession updated as that conversation evolves. In the meantime, the Law Society is looking for ways it can assist lawyers during this health crisis. An example of this is that the Law Society has temporarily permitting lawyers to complete client verification using non-face-to-face methods. These issues are addressed in the FAQ.

We will continue to update this FAQ as the situation continues to evolve and as the Law Society makes more decisions about the short and long term impacts of COVID-19 on our work.

Video Conference Witnessing and Commissioning of Documents Submitted to Land Titles for Registration

To assist Albertans with self-isolation and social distancing during the spread of COVID-19, effective Friday, April 3, 2020, the Government of Alberta is temporarily allowing the registration of Land Titles documents that have been witnessed, sworn or affirmed by Alberta lawyers using two-way teleconferencing.

  • This is a temporary measure as the government responds to the spread of COVID-19.
  • Land Titles will only accept documents commissioned or witnessed via videoconferencing from lawyers who are active, practicing, and insured in Alberta. Lawyers are subject to the Law Society of Alberta’s client identification and verification rules and oversight.
  • Original signatures are still required on all documents.
  • These measures will be in place as long as the state of public health emergency remains in effect.

For more information on the Land Titles forms that this change applies to, read the official letter. The Ministerial Order is limited to situations in which a lawyer is the witness or is acting as a commissioner or notary in administering an oath while a deponent is signing an affidavit. The lawyer must be an active practicing and indemnified member of the Law Society of Alberta. The Order also states that lawyers are subject to the Law Society’s client verification rules and oversight.

The Law Society of Alberta has also developed guidance for lawyers for using video teleconferencing for these purposes.

Appraisal Institute of Canada COVID-19 Resources

With the coronavirus situation evolving every day, AIC Members are reminded to follow the directions of Public Health Authorities (PHA). It is now clearer than ever that we all have a responsibility to our fellow Canadians to take these directions very seriously if we are to collectively have an effect on flattening the growth curve of the virus’ spread. Despite Appraisal services having been designated as essential (in most jurisdictions), appraisers are still required to follow all virus spread mitigation practices; in short – you must avoid any activity that puts you in close proximity with other people – interior site inspections can be completed remotely using technology or third-party data. The latest information from the Government of Canada on the COVID-19 outbreak, including prevention, economic support for individuals and businesses, and much more, can be found here.

AIC has a dedicated COVID-19 resource page which is updated daily, please check the page regularly for the latest information and resources, including but not limited to:

We know that some individuals have been expecting members to continue to complete full interior inspections and some organizations are continuing to suggest that those are options. To be clear, do not go inside a property to complete your appraisals; you can instead use third party data, video or photographs.

Members also have an ethical obligation (under the Code of Conduct and CUSPAP) to fully comply with legal directives and advisories – including public health directives. AIC expects all parties in the real estate industry to conduct themselves in a manner that is not detrimental to the public.

Please do your part to keep yourself and your community safe and healthy – and to limit your exposure to others as much as you can.



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