The proverbial you-know-what hit the fan on Tuesday morning, so despite the Coronavirus having existed in China since December, and despite the DJIA and TSX starting to decline in the last week of February, real estate has only been affected now for four days.
I’m literally reasserting the market conditions out there day-by-day, and while I remain convinced that by, say for argument’s sake, September, prices will be above January and the market will be back to normal, I had no idea what to expect next week, or next month.
I can’t make predictions with any level of certainty either.
I can tell you that properties continue to be listed, and properties continue to sell.
Quality listings are coming out too.
My overall feeling on the market is that this is going to be an odd week, but we’ll get far more clarity by this time next week.
Having said that, I want to bring your attention to how market participants, namely buyers, sellers, and agents, are changing the way they do business during these times.
I have three sections for you today:
3) Condo Rules & Regs
A lot of people are asking, “How can you conduct showings when there’s concern about transmitting a virus?
Every single brokerage is taking precautions right now, whether you feel it will have an impact or now, they’re trying.
Here’s the email that is sent out from our brokerage to every person booking a showing:
Thank you for scheduling a showing. The health and welfare of our clients and community is our priority as such we are taking additional precautionary measures: 1. Please confirm that no one attending the showing has recently travelled outside of Canada (including the US) or been in close contact with someone who has recently travelled. 2. Please confirm you have NOT had any of the following: Fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing in the last 14 days. 3. Please confirm you have NOT come in close contact with anyone with a confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 test in the last 14 days. 4. Please limit touching as much as possible. We have asked our sellers/landlords/tenants to leave interior doors open and lights on and ask you to leave them as they are. 5. Please do not use the washroom facilities during your viewing. 6. We ask that showings be limited to only the buyers themselves and are discouraging additional family members accompanying showings. 7. Please practice good hand washing or sanitize your hands prior to entering the home and touching the lockbox. If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate in contacting the listing agent.
I went to book a showing tonight for a house listed by another brokerage.
Before they released the lockbox code and confirmed the showing, they emailed me with the following:
1. Have you recently travelled outside of Canada (including the US) or have been in close contact with someone who has travelled internationally in the last 30 days?
2. Have you experienced any of the following in the last 14 days: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing?
3. Have you come in close contact with anyone with a confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 test, or who has experienced any of the above symptoms, in the last 30 days?
Please reply to this email with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response after each question at your earliest convenience. We will need this response prior to confirming your appointment.
And indeed, I had to write back “No, No, No” before my appointment was confirmed.
How are the clauses we use in our Agreement of Purchase & Sale documents going to change?
There are two ways in which we’re adapting.
The first is with regards to signing, since avoiding personal contact means we might not be able to meet in a conference room at our lawyer’s office to sign in person.
We are now including this clause:
The parties acknowledge and agree that all closing documentation can be signed electronically and forwarded by email or fax in accordance with the Electronic Commerce Act, SO 2000, as amended.
You’re starting to see a lot of lawyers adapt as well, with many communicating only by email and/or video-conference, and when they need hand-signed documents, they are couriering them to the clients, and then back to the lawyer’s offices.
The second clause is with respect to the potential for some deals to be delayed for circumstances beyond our control.
This is a clause we’re now using:
In the event that either party is unable to perform their obligations under the terms of this Agreement due to events reasonably viewed as related to the furtherance of public health causes or the containment of exposure to the COVID-19 virus, where one or more of the parties, the community at large or a portion thereof shall be kept from engaging in business activities due to bank closures, Ontario government services closures, business closures, public health emergencies, quarantines or self-isolation of one or more of the parties, their legal representatives, or their Realtors or mortgage brokers, the parties’ responsibilities hereunder shall remain in full force and effect, and the closing date herein shall be extended to the date that is 14 days after resolution of the event triggering this clause, Saturdays, Sundays and statutory holidays excluded, or such earlier date as the parties may agree to.
For those who are really interested in the legalese, I’ll show you a second clause.
The first is from our brokerage.
This one is from our lawyer:
In the event that either party is unable to perform their obligations under the terms of the Agreement of Purchase and Sale due to events reasonably viewed as related to the furtherance of public health causes or the containment of exposure of the novel coronavirus pandemic, wherein one or more of the parties, the community at large, or a portion thereof shall be kept from engaging in business activities due to bank closures, Ontario Government services closures, business closures, public health emergencies, quarantines or self-isolation of one or more of the parties, their legal representatives, or their realtors or mortgage brokers, the parties’ responsibilities hereunder shall remain in full force and effect, and the closing date herein shall be extended to the date that is fourteen (14) days after resolution of the event triggering this force majeure clause, or such earlier date as may be agreed between the parties. This clause has been added for the benefit of both parties to keep the Agreement of Purchase and Sale from becoming ‘frustrated’ thereby requiring the return of deposits, if any, and the voiding of the Agreement of Purchase and Sale.
How is your condominium corporation going to deal with COVID-19?
What can they do?
What can’t they do?
What rights do you have?
Shibley Righton LLP, Barristers & Solicitors recently sent us a newsletter with the following…
Answers To Your Condo Coronavirus Questions
The novel coronavirus and its resulting illness (COVID-19) have the potential to disproportionately affect residents of buildings with shared indoor spaces such as hallways, stairways, elevators, and amenity rooms. While, as set out below, buildings with concierge services may be in a better position to implement controls to limit the spread of COVID-19, there are steps that all boards/management may take in an effort to secure the safety of residents.
Below are our answers to a few frequently asked questions from our clients. While there is no “one size fits all” answer, the comments below can hopefully help guide your community.
Can access to the building be restricted to residents only?
No. Delivery personnel and other essential visitors will be necessary to assist residents who are infected with COVID-19, in self quarantine or practicing social distancing. Notices should be posted and sent to residents advising that only essential visitors will be permitted, such as food/supply delivery personnel and wellness/healthcare providers.
Can visitors be asked questions or made to take protective measures before entering the building?
Yes. In a building with a concierge, a visitor can be asked to identify whether they have recently travelled out of the country or are experiencing a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. If the visitor answers “yes” to any of those questions, or refuses to answer, then access to the building may be prohibited. Everyone entering the building should be asked to make use of available hand sanitizer.
Should we prohibit delivery personnel from entering the elevators and delivering directly to residents?
If the building has a concierge, most deliveries should be left with the concierge. The concierge can accept the package on behalf of the resident. This limits the number of strangers accessing the hallways and other common elements. Residents who are healthy should continue to collect their packages from the concierge. Healthy residents should be asked to meet any food delivery personnel at the front door of the building.
Residents who are unwell or in self quarantine should be asked to remain in their suites and deliveries should be left with the concierge and can then be placed outside the resident’s door. Where there is no concierge, a neighbour may be asked to retrieve the delivery and leave it outside their suite door. A digital message board among resident can help to facilitate this.
Residents should be encouraged to request “no-contact” delivery in the delivery instructions of any online or mobile app order.
What about dog walking services?
Healthy residents who are at home should bring their dogs down to the building doors to be handed off to and picked up from a dog walker. Where residents are not home or in quarantine/self-isolating, dog walkers may be required to pick up and drop off dogs directly from a unit. In such cases, buildings should consider strict protocols as to how access to a unit is granted. Like all other visitors, dog walkers who have recently travelled out of the country or exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 may be denied access and a resident may have to find an alternate dog walker.
Can access to the amenity areas be restricted or prohibited?
Yes, and it is recommended. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, boards are justified to restrict or prohibit access to amenity areas (gyms, theatre rooms, boardrooms, pools, guest suites, etc.) and cancel any bookings indefinitely. Taking steps designed to limit the possible spread of COVID-19 is consistent with a condominium corporation’s obligations under section 117 of the Condominium Act to not permit a condition to exist or carry on an activity that is likely to cause in jury to an individual.
Could the corporation be liable for the closure of amenities or the cancellation of events/bookings?
In our opinion, it is very unlikely that a corporation would be held liable. A corporation’s obligation to keep its community safe takes precedence over these facilities.
Could owners be entitled to reimbursement of monthly fees if the use of amenity areas is restricted or prohibited?
Does the board have a different duty of care to residents who are under a medical isolation?
No. The standard of care remains unchanged. The board is required to act honestly and in good faith and to exercise the care, diligence and skill that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in comparable circumstances. The board should make decisions that are consistent with the information and recommendation provided by the relevant health authorities.
What other steps can the board take to support residents who are voluntarily self-isolating?
If not already done, we would recommend that a corporation:
install additional hand sanitizing stations;
increase the frequency of common area cleaning and consider undergoing special chemical treatments to limit the spread of infection, even if they result in an increased cost to the corporation; and
ensure residents know how to contact the board/management to address concerns.
A resident is returning to the building to be quarantined after a positive diagnosis of COVID-19. What can the board/management do?
Many boards have asked residents to advise the board/management of any positive diagnosis of COVID-19, if they are being sent home to be quarantined and/or if they are self-isolating due to potential exposure. The board/management should take steps to coordinate with such a resident to reduce the likelihood that the resident interacts with any other resident or staff (for example, using the service elevator or designated stairwell to get the resident to their suite) and that the common areas accessed by such a resident are immediately cleaned and properly sanitized.
Everyone has a role to play in “flattening the curve” and the board/management should take all reasonable steps to keep residents safe and secure in these uncertain times.
Well folks, that was an interesting week to say the least.
Hopefully the above gives you a little insight into how things are being done right now, and just maybe, a little comfort.
Have a great weekend, and here’s to better days ahead!