As you know, the Ontario Government ordered most workplaces to close-down effective Tuesday, March 24, at 11:59 p.m. This measure is to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Government has created a list of “essential” services, which are businesses that are allowed to stay open, including “Land registration services, and real estate agent services and moving services.”
Why is “real estate” deemed essential?
We asked for the essential service designation and for the Land Registry Office to stay open because there are thousands of transactions in Ontario right now that have yet to close officially. Every one of them is different.
While some may not require the help of a real estate agent to close, others will. OREA was concerned that if realtors were not permitted to support these transactions, those families and businesses could have been left high and dry.
Many other professional services appear in the essential list, including banking, lawyers, and accountants. Shutting down these sectors completely, like real estate, could have had huge unintended consequences for consumers and a damaging domino impact on other transactions.
What does this all mean?
It does NOT mean business as usual.
ALL REALTORS should stop face-to-face business, including open houses, in-person showings, and maintaining agents and public office hours.
The Government gave the “essential” label to real estate to permit transactions to close – NOT to allow our Realtors to carry on with normal business practices during a crisis.
All Realtors should be moving to remote work – full stop.
What about showings involving tenants?
No real estate should, during this State of Emergency, participate in a face-to-face showing, especially of a tenanted property. Legally, the Residential Tenancies Act may permit showings, but for obvious health and safety reasons, these showings need to stop. Instead, we must work with our clients who are landlords to show properties virtually.
What does this mean to the paperwork for a real estate transaction for a purchase or sale of a condo or a purchase or sale of a home in the Greater Toronto Area?
Review COVID-19 clauses in any purchase or sale transaction with a seasoned, professional real estate agent and ensure your lawyer reviews all documentation as well.
The impact of the pandemic on the real estate industry has created a unique situation for buyers and sellers, and the professionals they rely on in a real estate transaction.
It’s important that any buyer wanting to complete a purchase in the coming weeks or months work closely with their salesperson. This is essential to ensure buyers and sellers understand that purchasing a home in today’s climate is not business as usual — and that the current restrictions, limitations and accommodations necessary to comply with physical distancing requirements will have a direct impact on their buying experience.
Under the provincial emergency orders in the COVID-19 environment, we have seen the introduction of a variety new clauses and liability waivers. They are intended to address such considerations as illness and virus transmission, transaction delays and interruptions in auxiliary business services that consumers rely upon to complete property transactions.
It is important to be aware that poorly drafted waivers and clauses in an agreement can create unnecessary confusion. They also have the potential to create disputes that can result in additional costs for all parties. In a worst-case scenario, poorly drafted agreements can jeopardize the success of a buyer’s and seller’s transaction.
Whether you are considering including one or more COVID-19 related clauses in an offer, or are presented with a contract that includes one, we recommend you review the document thoroughly with your real estate salesperson and seek the advice of a real estate lawyer before agreeing to or including such clauses or waivers in any contract, document or agreement of purchase and sale.
Each of us plays an important role in flattening the curve of cases in this global pandemic. Please continue to follow the direction, advice and guidance of public health officials and government authorities regarding physical distancing and mitigating risk to exposure or transmission of the COVID-19 virus throughout your purchase journey.
These are challenging and unprecedented times. We all have an obligation to do what’s right to keep our families, colleagues, and communities safe.
We understand that people need to make real estate decisions. But these decisions must be done thoughtfully, and with full consideration and deference to public health.
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Let’s work together…whether you are moving to Toronto, relocating to Toronto or want to purchase a home or condo it Toronto…let’s work together!