As of 12:01 a.m. today, Ontario entered the first step of the provincial government’s three-step approach to gradually lifting public health and workplace safety measures that were imposed earlier this month in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
Below is a summary of what the new rules mean for REALTORS® and real estate.
Impact on Real Estate Brokerages:
- Remote Work – The legal requirement to work from home except where necessary has been lifted by the province, although Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, recommends that those who are able to work from home continue to do so.
- Capacity limits – capacity inside a real estate business is limited to the lesser of 50% capacity or the number of people that can maintain physical distancing of 2 metres.
- Face covering/Masks – any person who enters a business or other indoor area must wear a face mask/covering at all times, unless that person is in an area that is not accessible to members of the public and is able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person while in the indoor area.
- Screening – real estate brokerages must complete active screening of workers who enter their offices. OREA also strongly encourages active screening for all real estate showings.
- Cleaning/Disinfecting – equipment, washrooms and other common areas must be cleaned regularly and disinfected.
- Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”) – PPE for eyes, nose and mouth for workers (i.e. receptionists) if they are required to come within 2 metres of a person who is not wearing a face covering or mask indoors and are not separated by a barrier.
For a full list of new health measures please visit covid-19.ontario.ca/public-health-measures.
Real estate open houses
Effective January 31st at 12:01 a.m., open houses are once again permitted.
Option 1 – Choose not to require proof of vaccination status to enter an open house
In the event you and your seller choose to host an open house and do not require proof of vaccination to enter the premise, the following rules apply:
- The person responsible for “any open house events” and the real estate agency who “hosts, provides or supports” to limit the number of people at the open house by ensuring every person can maintain physical distancing of 2 metres.
- REALTORS® are obligated to operate the open house in accordance with the recommendations and instructions of public health officials, such as those related to cleaning and disinfection.
- REALTORS® are required to comply with the requirements for posting the mandated signs, actively screening people prior to entry, requiring mask or face coverings, manage outdoor queuing and to have posted in a visible place a written safety plan that contains the measures which have been implemented to reduce transmission risk.
Please review OREA’s Guidance for Real Estate Open Houses in Step 3 of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen for a full list of requirements and safe open house practices.
Option 2 – Choose to require proof of vaccination status to enter an open house
In the event you and your seller choose to host an open house and require proof of vaccination to enter the building then the government’s restrictions for capacity limits and physical distancing no longer apply.
The province has created a QR code system to verify vaccination status. To download your enhanced vaccine certificate with a QR code that will be used by businesses and organizations using the Verify Ontario app, please visit Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccination portal. To access your certificate, you will need:
- Your email address
- Green photo health card
- Compatible web browser
Ontario has created the Verify Ontario App for businesses and REALTORS® to scan COVID-19 proof of vaccination at entry.
To be clear:
The new open houses rules do not make it mandatory for real estate registrants to ask for proof of vaccination when entering an open house after 12:01 am on January 31st, 2022.
Instead, the new rule provides for two options for real estate registrants hosting open houses. Members should work with their sellers to determine which option meets the best interests of their clients.
In addition, Members can review OREA’s guidance for safe in-person showings for more help.
Safe Open House Practices
No matter what option you choose, Ontario is still in the middle of a global pandemic. The public health situation is improving however, as experience has shown, things can change quickly.
With that in mind, OREA strongly encourages Members to take every effort to keep themselves and their clients safe while participating in an open house and other in-person activities.
- Use technology first and to the greatest extent possible – virtual showings, virtual open houses and meetings continue to be good ways for Members to limit contact with clients.
- Request self-screening of COVID-19. Post signage on the property entryway door stating that if people have been ill, have symptoms of COVID-19, have come in contact with a person with symptoms or a confirmed case of COVID-19 they should not enter the home.
- Require PPE use. Ensure masks or face coverings are worn inside at all times. Consider providing this PPE outside the entrance of the residence. Municipalities may have by-laws regarding the use of masks where business is being conducted. Be sure to review any such by-laws in your municipality.
- Manage the flow of traffic. If a line forms outside, people should be staggered 6’ apart. Consider signage or markers to this effect. In the home, plan and direct safe traffic flow by considering an alternate exit to the entrance and posting signage informing guests of the traffic flow through the home. Have an assistant manage physical distancing outside and inside the home and for people registering. While a showing is in progress, place a sign on the door to indicate that and ask other guests to wait in a queue or their cars.
- Sanitize hands before and after. Provide hand sanitizer at the door and require guests to disinfect before entry.
- Ensure proper ventilation. Where possible, ensure that the property’s AC unit has been turned on, or open windows to ventilate the space.
- Enforce ‘no touching’ rules. Open all the interior doors and closet doors and turn on lights so that any open house visits can be completed without touching these surfaces. The listing REALTOR® should be available to open cabinets, storage spaces, blinds, etc.
- Sanitize. Disinfect surfaces, door handles and parts of the house that guests come in close contact with both before and after the open house.
- Protocols for multi-tenanted properties. For multi-tenanted properties like condominiums, discuss with the seller whether building management has any COVID-19 safety protocols to be aware of and incorporate those into your plan. Also, enlist the help of an assistant to manage entry to the building and other common areas, and ensure physical distancing can be maintained between consumers in common areas.
Disclaimer. The information contained in this post is not meant to be relied upon as legal advice by REALTORS®, or others. Members wishing further clarity or advice should seek independent legal advice specific to their circumstances. Due to the quickly changing regulatory environment during the COVID-19 emergency, this document may not be current or accurate by the time it is read.