News Bulletin - March 20, 2020
COVID-19 UPDATE—Trading in Real Estate
As the regulator for real estate trading in Nova Scotia, we felt it necessary to reach out to the real estate industry respecting the current health crisis we’re all facing.
The Commission has received calls and emails from concerned licensees regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. We hear your concerns and we share them. Some of the calls suggested we stop all trading activities in the province. The Commission is governed by the Real Estate Trading Act. The Act was designed to regulate the trading activities of brokerages and licensees. The Act, along with other acts in the province governing regulated professions, does not contemplate what do in a pandemic. We have consulted legal counsel, and have determined that the legislation does not give us the authority to restrict or cease trading activities in the province. Likewise, the Act does not provide us the authority to interfere in legal contracts between brokerages and consumers.
At this point, no Canadian jurisdictions have been directed by the government to cease trading. The Commission can only recommend that licensees attempt to limit or stop any trading activities that require personal interaction with others. This includes, but is not limited to, in-person appointments, property viewings, and open houses. The Commission is monitoring this situation hourly and will respond quickly and accordingly, and as we have the authority to do so.
Many businesses and organizations are temporarily closing and many people working from home. Our governments are encouraging that only essential services continue to operate in this current environment.
Licensees are strongly encouraged to avoid trading activities that require personal contact with consumers and licensees. If it is absolutely necessary to have face-to-face meetings, follow the social-distancing guidelines set out by the provincial government.
It is important to discuss COVID-19 with your clients and customers. If you are concerned about exposing yourself to COVID-19, communicate this with your clients and try to find social-distancing solutions. Do not provide advice that is outside of your area of expertise. Remember, and remind your clients that you are a real estate professional, not a public health expert. Direct your clients to government resources for information on COVID-19, and allow them to make their own decisions.
If you are working with a consumer who wants to engage in activities that you feel are unsafe, discuss the matter with your broker. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, seek legal advice. Likewise, any consumer that is feeling pressured should do the same.
Any clients or customers that require time extensions should also seek advice from their lawyer.
Licensees have a professional responsibility to conduct themselves in keeping with the health and safety of consumers and licensees.
Thank you for your cooperation and understanding as we all work to flatten the curve. We want to ensure licensees and consumers are safe and protected.
Working with sellers
It is our understanding that NSAR announced on March 18th that the MLS® rule requiring properties advertised on the MLS® System to be available for showings has been relaxed. Sellers who do not wish to show their property can refuse showings and their property will still remain on MLS®. Brokerages will not be penalized for advertising properties on the MLS® System that are not available for showings.
For further information on NSAR requirements, please contact the NSAR.
Sellers can direct their licensee to ask buyers’ licensees if their buyers have recently returned from outside Canada, have symptoms of COVID-19, or if they’ve been directed to self-quarantine. Note that the buyer’s licensee can only share this information with the permission of their client.
If your client is uncomfortable with in-person showings, consider alternative ways to market the property, such as having the seller consent to providing video tours and virtual showings.
Working with buyers
If your buyers want to continue viewing properties, travel in separate vehicles.
Before viewing a property, contact the seller’s licensee to find out if the sellers have recently returned from travel outside Canada, are self-quarantining, or have symptoms of COVID-19. Note that the seller’s licensee can only share this information with the permission of their client.
Your clients may wish to limit in-person viewings to properties they have already viewed by video.
If your buyer wants a video tour or a virtual showing, obtain permission from the seller to do so.
If a property seller limits viewings, your client may consider making an offer conditional on an in-person viewing.
For questions about the MLS®, contact the NSAR.
If you have any questions during the office closure, contact the Commission staff by email or call the main office line and direct your voicemail to the appropriate staff member. Voicemails will be monitored using our voicemail to email automotive system.