By ALAN SHACKLETON
A Facebook post earlier this week from an East York resident has raised questions regarding the rights of tenants and realtors who are showing homes during Toronto’s COVID-19 lockdown.
Jordanna Graves posted on the Topham Park Community Group Facebook site on Jan. 21 that she and her neighbours were concerned about the number of people going into a house on Amsterdam Avenue for showings.
In the post she said at least 20 people went through the house in groups of two or three for showings. The main issue of concern, though, was that tenants living in the home allegedly either had tested positive for COVID-19 or had been exposed to someone who tested positive.
“I just found out from my neighbour that the family living in the basement of the house currently have COVID,” Graves’ post said. “This family is not from Canada and English is not their first language. They have reached out to my neighbour, who has been helping them with getting groceries as they are doing all the right stuff in isolating and staying put for help as that they do not know what the can do or their rights…”
She also alleged in her post that the tenants had been told to “all go in the same room and close the door when people come to look at the house.”
Graves told Beach Metro News on Friday, Jan. 22, that she had complained to the City of Toronto through its 311 service about the house showings and was informed that bylaw officers would look into it as it relates to COVID-19 rules. As of 4 p.m. Jan. 22, the city said it was still looking into a request by Beach Metro News on the status of this and would provide information once it became available.
The realtor has also been contacted about the allegations in the Facebook post, but has not yet responded to Beach Metro News.
Real estate is considered an essential service in Ontario under the province’s lockdown order. However, there are numerous rules which realtors must follow to keep buyers, sellers, clients, and existing tenants safe from COVID-19 while conducting showings.
During the pandemic lockdown order, open houses are not allowed. Showing can only be held by appointment and must be limited in the number of people who go through the house.
In a statement sent to Beach Metro News, the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) outlined its COVID-19 advice for real estate agents.
“We have repeatedly reminded Members that it is not business as usual, the most recent guidance being issued a week ago. While real estate is deemed an essential service, Realtors have an obligation to keep their communities safe during this second wave,” said the statement. “Most members have heeded our advisories and are doing their part to be in compliance with public health directives to ensure the safety of their clients and the public. Any Realtor breaching these rules should be reported to the Real Estate Council of Ontario and public health authorities to face consequences.”
The Real Estate Council of Ontario has a long list of rules for realtors to follow during the pandemic, including the rights of tenants.
“The government has taken steps to modify landlord and tenant rights under these unprecedented times,” said the RECO website. “These parameters fall under the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 (RTA), which is enforced by the Landlord Tenant Board (LTB). It is outside of RECO’s jurisdiction to require a tenant’s consent for showings. However, RECO has recommended that registrants obtain the tenant’s consent.
“Registrants must comply with the RTA in all dealings with tenants. Please note that if a landlord is not permitted to do something under the RTA, a registrant cannot do it either. In addition, the landlord’s consent is required for any actions involving tenants. We encourage all parties to approach such situations with a desire to be flexible and understanding, with full consideration of the risk of transmission associated with in-person showings.”
TRREB’S COVID-19 statement on COVID-19 safety protocols for showings reads as follows:
“Showings by appointment is permitted under provincial rules to ensure the real estate market remains functional. Residents have sold homes and need to purchase another, or have bought a house and need to sell. Others are in need of housing. TRREB continues to encourage Members to rely on virtual tools and we have provided supporting technology to facilitate virtual showings. If in-person showings are required, it should be limited to those that are urgent. Members and their brokerages have been advised to adopt the following protocols:
- If their client decides that an in-person showing is necessary, they should conduct as much business as possible online before hosting or participating in an in-person showing.
- Follow all Public Health protocols during showings or in-person business.
- Practice physical distancing; use personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks; and clean and disinfect the home before and after the showing.
- Each showing should be scheduled with enough time in between to ensure thorough disinfecting of the home and minimize interpersonal contact.
- Limit the number of people allowed into a home at one time.
- Communicate this to clients and ensure they wait until they are invited to enter the property.
- Keep showings to one family in the property at a time and only contract parties.
One thing is certain, if REALTORS®, their clients, or any consumer is displaying symptoms related to COVID-19, they cannot proceed in a way that may endanger others. They are obligated to refuse showings to clients.”