COVID-19 and Real Estate

As industry professionals, your work requires you to regularly interact with members of the public. However, the arrival of COVID-19 in Alberta means it’s no longer business as usual for you.

Real estate brokerage, mortgage brokerage, and real estate appraisal have been deemed an essential service by the Alberta Government. This means brokerages will not need to shut down operations at this time. Albertans rely on these professional services, and brokerages are encouraged to remain open.

All industry professionals should be discussing COVID-19 with their clients. COVID-19 is significant health concern for both you and your clients. As part of providing competent service, industry professionals 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. And, remember to assess your own risk. Especially if you are a buyer and tenant representative who may be entering properties where persons infected with COVID-19 may be recovering in self-isolation. Take steps to understand the risk associated with your viewings. 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.

The sections below contain information on COVID-19 that RECA has put together for your reference. Please note that none of this information should be used in place of information provided by medical professionals and the Government of Alberta.

COVID-19 information is fast moving.  Please let us know of new information not covered in the website, and how we can improve our information offerings.

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


Real estate professionals 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 is updated twice daily and 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
  • 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.
  • set 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
  • 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. AREA has provided directions to AREA members about open houses**
  • real estate professionals 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 if the seller is uncomfortable with risks of showing the property, which may trigger the option to temporarily pull properties of the market.  Some 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 if they have made or are considering relaxations.

  • 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, industry professionals 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.

 


Real estate professionals 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 is updated twice daily and 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
  • having you request health and recent travel information from potential sellers and their professionals 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, and not touching, doorknobs, cupboard hardware, light switches or other surfaces unless necessary
  • 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 time

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.


NEW: New protections were put in place by the Government of Alberta on March 27, 2020. These tenant protections were put in place for residential and mobile home site tenants facing financial hardship due to COVID-19. These protections include:

  • Tenants cannot be evicted for non-payment of rent and/or utilities before May 1, 2020.
  • Rents on residential properties or mobile home sites will not increase while Alberta’s State of Public Health Emergency remains in effect.
  • Late fees cannot be applied to late rent payments until June 30 and cannot be collected retroactively for this time.
  • Landlords and tenants need to work together to develop payment plans while COVID-19 is being managed.
  • Landlords can still file applications and receive orders for possession if the reason for the eviction is unrelated to rent and/or utility payments, or if a tenant refused to negotiate or comply with a payment plan.

Related Ministerial Orders from the Minister of Service Alberta:

These protections do not impact a landlord’s ability to evict tenants for damage to the property or other causes outlined in the Residential Tenancies Act or the Mobile Home Sites Tenancies Act.

Property managers should reach out to their landlord 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 is updated twice daily and 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
  • cleaning 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.

Dealing with Rent Defaults

Please refer to the new protections for tenants at the top of this section.

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.

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

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 as well as mitigating panic. 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 real 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.

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.


NEW: New protections were put in place by the Government of Alberta on March 27, 2020. These tenant protections were put in place for residential and mobile home site tenants facing financial hardship due to COVID-19. These protections include:

  • Tenants cannot be evicted for non-payment of rent and/or utilities before May 1, 2020.
  • Rents on residential properties or mobile home sites will not increase while Alberta’s State of Public Health Emergency remains in effect.
  • Late fees cannot be applied to late rent payments until June 30 and cannot be collected retroactively for this time.
  • Landlords and tenants need to work together to develop payment plans while COVID-19 is being managed.
  • Landlords can still file applications and receive orders for possession if the reason for the eviction is unrelated to rent and/or utility payments, or if a tenant refused to negotiate or comply with a payment plan.

Related Ministerial Orders from the Minister of Service Alberta:

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 is updated twice daily and 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 nitrile gloves 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.


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, almost daily. 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 April 1 or May 1 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

 

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 professionals in your brokerage.

Your clients’ financials could be impacted by increasing restrictions being imposed by government , the need to self-isolate, or layoffs. Make sure your associates discuss with their clients any COVID-19 implications on their mortgage transactions.


There are likely to be two elements to the discussions mortgage professionals will be having with clients.

  • The first may be associated with the maintenance of social distancing. For example, 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.
  • Of greater concern are deals in progress where the borrower’s employment situation has changed. 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 enacting during this time.

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. While this has been widely publicized over the last few days, be sure you have up-to-date contact information for the lenders to share with your borrower clients.


The work of real estate appraisers often requires them to enter residential and commercial premises. This creates two challenges.

  • First, real estate appraisers need to assess their own risk associated with the appraisal. Discuss health concerns and recent travel information with the residents or workers at the property being appraised to give yourself an indication of any risk
  • Second, people residing or working in the premises may have their own concerns about the risk posed by your visit. Call residents or workers prior to visiting the premises to discuss measures that alleviate their concerns, such as wearing gloves and avoiding touching any surfaces

Notify your clients or the Appraisal Management Company who ordered the appraisal, as applicable, if you are not able to visit a premises based on your risk assessment or where the residents or workers refuse you entry. Discuss with your client the potential of foregoing the interior inspection of the premises, and ensure that the appropriate reporting standards are met and documented in your appraisal report.


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 daily. See the sections above for information and recommendations for your area(s) of practice.


Q

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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.

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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, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. As such if your client is uncomfortable with someone coming to measure their property, they can choose not to make a size representation. If your local board requires you to advertise a size, please contact your local board to discuss if there are any size relaxations during the COVID-19 pandemic

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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.

Federal Incentives:

  • Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy
    • 75% wage subsidy to small businesses for salaries paid since March 15 (replacing the previously announced 10% wage subsidy)
    •  Eligible businesses (regardless of the number of employees, not not-for-profits and charities) that experienced a 30% reduction of their revenue due to COVID-19
    • Covers 75% of the wage of the employee up to a maximum weekly subsidy per employee of $847

Learn more here

  • Work Sharing Program (private sector, not-for-profit) – for employees/individuals
    • Provides EI benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hours
    • Maximum duration is extended from 38 weeks to 76 weeks for business affected by the economic downtown of COVID-19
    • For private, public or not-for-profit businesses in Canada running for at least 2 years
    • Demonstrate that shortage of work is temporary and beyond their own control with a recent decrease in business activity of approx. 10%
    • Employees must be “core employees” – year round permanent full-time or part-time employees required to carry out the everyday functions of normal business activity
      • Be eligible for EI benefits
      • Must agree to reducing normal working hours to share available work

Learn more here

  • Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (SUB), (applies to municipal gov’t, private sector & not-for-profits)
    • SUB plan tops up employee’s EI benefits when they are unemployed due to temporary stoppage of work, training, illness, injury or quarantine
    • Payments are not considered as earnings and are not deducted from EI benefits
    • Employees need to apply for and receive EI benefits to receive SUB payments – combined weekly payments from the plan and EI weekly benefits doesn’t exceed 95% of employee’s normal weekly earnings
    • Entirely financed by the employer

Learn more here

  • Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) – for employees and self-employees
    • A taxable benefit of $2,000 per month for up to 4 months to support
    • For any Canadian out of work due to reasons related to COVID-19 including sickness, quarantine, caregiving, staying home to take care of children or loss of jobs
    • All Canadians who stopped working and earning income, eligible for EI or not would receive this benefit
    • Canadians have to decide to apply for CERB or EI based on what offers more financial support
    • Canadians receiving EI regular or sickness benefits would continue EI benefits (and shouldn’t apply for CERB), including those who applied for EI and whose application hasn’t been processed
    • Will be available early April 2020

Learn more here

  • Tax Filing & Payments
    • Deadline extensions
      • Individuals have until June 1, 2020 to submit their tax return
      • Trusts (taxation year end Dec 31, 2019) tax filing is deferred until May 1, 2020
    • Payment deferral
      • Individuals and businesses will be able to defer their income tax (taxes owing between March 18, 2020 and Sept 2020) until after Aug 31, 2020
    • Payment deferral for GST/HST remittances
      • Businesses have until June 30 to remit GST/HST due to the government:
        • Monthly filers for amount collected in Feb, March, April
        • Quarterly filers for amount collected between Jan 1 – March 31
        • Annual filers, whose GST/HST return or instalment are due in March, April or May
    • Payment deferral for customs duties remittances
      • Payment deadlines for custom duties and GST on imports collected in March, April, and May are being deferred to June 30

Learn more here

  • EI Sickness and Regular Benefits
    • Sickness benefits – 15 weeks of partial income replacements who cannot work for medical reasons
    • COVID-19 changes – one week waiting period for benefits is waived for new claimants who are quarantined, and applicants don’t need medical certificate if they are quarantined
    • No changes to regular benefits

Learn more here

  • Government Financing
    • Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) provides $10 billion additional support to businesses with cash flow challenges through Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC)
    • Increased flexibility to lenders to defer mortgage payments on homeowner government-insured mortgage loans

Learn more here

  • $40,000 Canada Emergency Business Account
    • Banks will provide interest-free loans (for the first year) of up to $40,000 to employers with $50,000 to $1 million in total payroll in 2019
    • Repaying the balance of the loan on or before December 31, 2022 will result in loan forgiveness of 25% (up to $10,000)

Learn more here

  • Flexibility on loans and access to credit – municipal government, for employees and self-employees
    • Canada’s six largest banks are providing flexible solutions including six-month payment deferral on mortgages and credit relief opportunities – interest on outstanding balance may be charged
  • Special top-up payment of GST credit – for employees and self-employees
    • One-time top-up of the credit, average increase will be a $400 payment for individuals and $600 for couples – payment proposed for May 2020

Learn more here

  • One-time increase to the Canada Child Benefit (CCB)
    • Families that received the CCB in 2019-20 will receive an extra $300 per child as pay of their May
    • No application required unless you are eligible for CCB and have not previously applied

Learn more here

  • Additional business support:
    • CRA will not contact any small or medium businesses to initiate any post assessment GST/HST or Income Tax audits for 4 weeks, beginning March 18, 2020
    • Bank of Canada will broaden the scope of the current Government of Canada bond buyback program
    • Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) announced that it has lowered Domestic Stability Buffer by 1.25% of risk-weighted assets, which will allow Canada’s large banks to inject $300 billion of additional lending into the economy
    • Government of Canada launched Insured Mortgage Purchase Program (IMPP), will purchase $50 billion of insured mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) – to provide long-term stable funding to banks and mortgage lenders & liquidity to Canada’s mortgage market

Alberta Incentives:

  • Support for small businesses:
    • Corporate income tax balances and installment payments will be deferred until August 31, 2020
    • Residents, agri-businesses and small businesses can defer electricity and natural gas bill payments for the next 90 days, regardless of the service provider
    • Freeze in electricity property taxes at last year’s level (savings of $32 million for businesses)
    • Education property tax is deferred for businesses for the next 6 months
    • WCB premiums are deferred until early 2021 – employers who already paid their WCB premium payment for 2020 are eligible for rebate or credit, the government will cover 50% of the premium when it is due for small and medium businesses
    • Hotels and other lodging providers can delay paying the tourism levy until August 31, 2020 for amounts that become due to the government on or after today
  • Changes to the Alberta Employment Standards Code:
    • 14-day job-protected leave for employees who are required to self-isolate (full-time and part-time employees, include those who care for a child or dependent adult)
    • Emergency Isolation Support program:
      • Offers paid leave for employees without access to EI for receiving benefits like vacation time or sick leave
      • Available for small business owners and self-employed
      • One time payment of $1,146 to bridge gap until Federal program commences in April
      • Accessibility of benefit – person will be able to state they require direct cash payment or not be able to self-isolate and the sole caregiver for a dependent who must self-isolate; supporting documents do not need to be submitted with application but will need to be kept for auditing
  • Vacation pay, leave or banked overtime (also applies to municipal government)
    • Employees required to self-isolate may request to use available vacation pay, leave or banked time, but employers are not required to grant this request
    • Employers can request employees voluntarily take vacation leave and/or use their vacation pay or banked overtime but cannot force them to
  • Alberta Banks:
    • ATB financial customers impacted by COVID-19
      • Customers can apply for a deferral on their ATB loans, lines of credit, and mortgages for up to 6 months, interest will continue to accrue at the interest of the rate of the loan
      • Small business customers will have more access to additional working capital
    • 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 Federal for Independent Business has additional resources for Alberta’s COVID-19 relief measures for businesses here.

Municipal Incentives:

  • City of Calgary:
    • Utilities: ENMAX will discuss options that are available to you
    • Water Utility customers will not have their water service disconnected for non-payment
    • Business Improvement Area (BIA) late payments cancelled until June 30
      • Cancellation of penalties between April 1 and June 30, any business that has no already paid their BIA taxes has until June 30, 2020 to pay a penalty fee of 7% as of July 1, 2020
    • Tax Instalment Payment Plan (TIPP) payments decreasing
      • Non-residential property owners participating on TIPP
      • Decrease in April 1 instalment equal to provincial property tax portion on tax instalment (this portion deferred for 6 months)
  • City of Edmonton:
    • Utilities: the Alberta Utility Commission and utility partners working on deferral program on a recommended a deferral period of March 18 to June 18, 2020,  ensuring no interest or fees are charged and no utilities are cut off during this period, even for customers in arrears
    • Property Taxes: no late penalties will be charged to tax payments before August 31
    • BIA Taxes: BIA Tax Levy payment penalties have been deferred until at least August 31, 2020. Businesses that are in financial hardship and cannot make their payments by the March 31, 2020 deadline can defer their payments without late penalties.
  • City of Grande Prairie
    • Property Taxes: property taxes for residential and non-residential property owners deferred until August 31, 2020
  • City of Red Deer
    • Utilities: residential, farm and small commercial customers can defer their utility payment for water, sewer and waste for the next 90 days
      • no penalties will be applied for payment deferrals

Learn more about Alberta-specific recommendations for municipalities here.


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 legitamate 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.

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 industry professionals, communicating electronically or by phone
  • Practice Advice: RECA Practice advisors will be available to conduct virtual brokerage meetings, including sessions on how to talk to clients about COVID-19

Exams for RECA education programs have been postponed. Yardstick—the provider of RECA’s exam engine—has made the decision to close their test centre network for a period of 45 days from Monday, March 16 through Thursday, April 30.

Learners will not be able to book exams during this period. If your course/program expiration date is within this timeframe, you will have an additional 30 days after April 30th to write your exams. This deadline will be reflected in your expiration date in myRECA.


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:

Watch daily live updates by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer at 3:30pm.


Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA)

COVID-19 Updates and Latest Recommendations

 

Real Estate 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. Check back frequently for updates.

 

BOMA Calgary Coronavirus EOC Update

As we all deal with the ramifications of a global pandemic and the prudent local measures that have been taken to help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), we at BOMA Calgary just wanted to reach out and let you know what we’re doing to support to the industry during these challenging and unprecedented times.

You may have seen that on Sunday evening a local state of emergency was declared, and the city’s Emergency Operations Centre was activated. As an invited external partner to the Calgary Emergency Management Agency’s (CEMA) Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), BOMA Calgary is your voice and your representative during emergency situations.

Twice a day BOMA Calgary representatives are in EOC update meetings and are in a position to both provide the industry with up-to-date information, as well as to relay important industry considerations back to CEMA.

BOMA Calgary’s Public Safety Committee has also instituted a daily meeting to help coordinate responses based on best practices, while also helping to answer questions on appropriate actions buildings can take during events like these.

Buildings are grappling with how to respond to less tenant spaces being occupied, increased presence of vulnerable populations, +15 security, reduced staffing requirements, and reduced building access needs. If you have any questions on what measures you can take in your building or how others are responding, please reach out to Lloyd.Suchet@boma.ca and through the Public Safety Committee we will aim to respond daily.

If you have security/life safety personnel who you think could benefit from access to this daily Public Safety Committee call, please reach out and we will extend that invite.

We also want to remind you that we have cancelled all in-person events for March, and have moved all committee meetings to video or phone conferencing to support the social distancing efforts that local authorities have recommended. While the BOMA Calgary office remains closed to guests, staff are working remotely and are stand ready to help in any way.

 

CREB® Update: Novel Coronavirus

CREB® is actively monitoring news and updates on novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

As of March 12, there have been 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta. Alberta Health Services (AHS) has stated that “the risk of spread of this virus within Alberta remains low at this time, and we have taken all possible steps to prevent transmission of COVID-19 from this case.”

Up-to-date information from Alberta Health Services on novel coronavirus is updated frequently and available here.

Reduce your risk

As you may have heard, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

According to AHS and WHO, COVID-19 is believed to be spread mainly by coughing, sneezing, direct contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19 or with surfaces they have recently touched. This is true for a number of illnesses like head colds or the flu.

We can all minimize our risk for any of these illnesses by:

  • frequently washing our hands
  • covering coughs and sneezes
  • avoiding touching our eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • staying at home and away from others if we are feeling ill

If you have any questions or concerns about your health, we encourage you to contact your primary health care provider or Health Link 811.

Information for REALTORS®

Under these current circumstances, we caution that it is not business as usual.

REALTORS® have never been obligated to put themselves or their clients at risk and we encourage you to be thoughtful in how you approach each situation to ensure both you and your client are safe and remain healthy.

For more information on how COVID-19 is potentially impacting the real estate industry, please see NAR’s publication which provides additional information regarding this situation. Please note that this information is specific to NAR’s US membership and should be used as a general guide in conducting your business under current conditions.

Please note, CREB®’s Member Training and Events team is currently reviewing registration policies and procedures for in-person events and courses hosted at CREB®. More information on this will be shared with members shortly.

As well, the Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA) will provide additional information for REALTORS® regarding COVID-19 in the coming days.

We will continue to monitor the situation and update you as more information becomes available.

Please visit creblink.com/Member_Support/COVID-19/ for more information and updates.

CREB® member compliance

The safety and health of our members and consumers is important to CREB®, which is why we are taking proactive measures wherever possible to assist our members and the public.

CREB® understands that you may have sellers who are uncomfortable showing their home or hosting an open house during this current climate. If your clients do not want to grant access to their home or facilitate showings, then the property will need to be withdrawn on the MLS® system.

CREB® will be relaxing our enforcement approach to the withdrawal of these listings until further notice. This means that you will not need to have new withdrawal paperwork executed after 10 days, nor will CREB® be enforcing on listings that are in withdrawn status for greater than 10 days. Please note that you do need to ensure your clients are still completing the withdrawal paperwork to ensure that you have their written instruction.

With these extraordinary circumstances, we all need to do our part. If you have concerns or questions, please reach out to crebmp@creb.ca for support.

 

BCREA Tips

What Does the COVID-19 Virus Mean for REALTORS®?