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COVID-19: The latest updates from REBGV

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covid 19

COVID-19: The latest updates from REBGV

Here’s the latest news from your Board:

Provincial government lists REALTORS® as an essential service

The provincial government announced yesterday that real estate agents are considered an essential service in BC, alongside measures to centralize our healthcare response, ban the secondary resale of essential goods, and secure supply lines. 

Other real estate-related essential services include: 

  • Land registration services 
  • Construction work 
  • Professional services, including lawyers and accountants 
  • Insurance services 
  • Building code enforcers and inspectors 

The BC Real Estate Association made this recommendation to government prior to the announcement. 

Click here to read the full list of essential services.

What does it mean to be an essential service? 

Being an essential service doesn’t mean business as usual.  

The recognition grants REALTORS® the privilege to continue to practice real estate in a socially responsible manner in strict adherence to the Provincial Health Officer’s orders. 

This includes limiting in-person interaction as much as possible and following physical distancing requirements until the state of emergency is lifted. 

BC’s Superintendent of Real Estate Micheal Noseworthy said in a recent letter that the essential service designation means that real estate services are encouraged to remain open, but must follow the guidance provided by the Provincial Health Officer and other relevant government agencies to ensure safe operations and reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. 

For example, the provincial government announced on Wednesday that, while the provincial emergency order is in place, landlords are not permitted to enter a tenant’s rental space (for showings, routine maintenance etc.) without the tenant’s consent.

Where consent is granted to access a property by the home owner, and any tenant, you must adhere to the BC Centre for Disease Control’s prevention and physical distancing guidelines.

“If the guidelines cannot be followed, real estate professionals should not conduct the showing,” Noseworthy said. 

The provincial government has empowered municipal bylaw officers to enforce the provincial health office’s orders. The City of Vancouver announced they’ll start fining residents and businesses who aren’t following physical distancing practices. 

Provincial control 

The other provincial measures announced yesterday include: 

  • Creating a Provincial Supply Chain Coordination Unit to co-ordinate goods and service distribution. 
  • Banning secondary resale of essential goods like food, medical supplies, and cleaning supplies. 
  • Restricting the quantity of essential items purchased at point of sale. 
  • Giving municipal bylaw officers the power to enforce the provincial health officer’s orders. 
  • Enforcing minimum service levels for passenger and car-ferry services. 
  • Suspending local states of emergency specific to the COVID-19 pandemic (except for the City of Vancouver, which must get provincial approval for any further actions). Emergency actions for the whole province are being coordinated under provincial authority to eliminate a patchwork approach. 
  • Coordinating the potential use of local public facilities, like convention centres and community centres, for medical operations like self-isolation, testing, care, warehousing, and distribution. 

Read the full announcement

A message from Real Estate Errors and Omissions Insurance (E&O)

The Real Estate Errors and Omissions Insurance Corporation released the following statement yesterday to help clarify your coverage situation: 

You’re covered 

Licensees who continue to provide real estate services throughout the COVID-19 crisis should be reassured in knowing that they continue to have E&O coverage and that coverage has not changed as a result of the crisis. We cover claims for errors, omissions and negligent acts in the course of providing real estate services under RESA. We remind you that E&O has never covered claims relating to or arising out of sickness or disease and suggest that you check with your insurance broker to see if other policies such as a brokerage’s Comprehensive General Liability  or excess policy may apply.   

The risk that someone takes a run at you claiming you were negligent because they caught COVID-19 from a showing or meeting you arranged is likely small. Such claims would be difficult to prove as it would be challenging to convince a judge of the source of the infection. However, it is better to be safe than sorry and to take steps to avoid these claims in the first place.  

Follow recommendations 

Both the BCREA and the Real Estate Council have urged an immediate end to open houses and in-person showings during the current state of emergency declared by the provincial government. Those who do not comply with these recommendations put the safety of their clients, the public, and themselves in jeopardy.  

Use the resources and checklists provided by RECBC on their COVID-19 Guidance for Real Estate Professionals webpage. They’ve prepared this material to help you provide real estate services while complying with orders from health officials. Take responsible steps to make sure you’re protected.          

We’re open 

Although the Courts are closed until early May, this doesn’t stop claims from being made against licensees. Although we’re working remotely, we're still handling new and old claims and responding to your inquiries. Let us know immediately if you become aware of a claim or potential claim. If you’re not sure, call us anyways. We’re here to help. 

Be safe 

Following all the guidelines of the government and health authorities is the first step towards getting back to “normal”. You don’t have to stop providing real estate services – you’ve got the same coverage you always had – but ending open houses and in-person showings means you may need to be creative in how you do business, for your protection and that of those around you. New issues and questions come up daily but there are many resources available to help you get answers and make the best choices – check out the information from BCREA and RECBC

If you have any questions, call us at 604-669-0019 or email us at reception@reeoic.com.

Share the latest updates with your clients

We continue to publish articles on our public facing websites (REBGV.org and Realtylink.org) to help potential buyers and sellers understand what to expect during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Feel free to share these resources with your clients. 

Click here to read our article about the province designating REALTORS® as an essential service.

Click here to read our article on COVID-19 government relief programs for home owners and renters.

We’ll continue to publish the latest real estate news for the public as information becomes available.

LTSA services remain available virtually 

In addition to REALTORS®, land registration services were included on the BC government’s list of essential services, along with financial, legal, and notary services. 

The Land Title and Survey Authority of BC’s (LTSA) operations are continuing as usual during the COVID-19 situation. Although front counter services are closed, customers can file applications, register land title interests, and search for land information through LTSA’s online systems.

Federal government announces small business aid package 

The federal government announced a new small business relief package today. 

Here’s the details. 

Increased wage subsidy 

The federal government announced plans to increase the small- and medium-sized business wage subsidy to 75 per cent from the 10 per cent announced previously.

The new subsidy will be backdated to March 15 and is intended to help employers to continue to pay their employees through the economic slowdown. 

The government will release details on the wage subsidy, including who will qualify, on Monday. 

Interest-free loans 

Alongside the wage subsidy, the federal government announced a Canada Emergency Business Account, which will allow banks to offer $40,000 loans to small businesses. 

These loans will be interest free for the first year. 

More details on the program will be coming soon. 

GST, HST, and duty deferment 

Finally, the government will allow taxpayers to defer GST and HST payments, as well as duty taxes on imports until June. 

Do you qualify for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit? 

Earlier this week, the federal government announced the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), a $500 weekly payment intended to support workers unable to make a living due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Eligible applicants can receive it for up to 16 weeks in lieu of Employment Insurance (EI). 

What makes the CERB unique is that it covers workers not normally covered by EI, including self-employed or contract workers like REALTORS®. 

In order to be eligible for the benefit, you must have: 

  • ceased working for reasons related to COVID-19 for at least 14 consecutive days with a four-week period; and 
  • made more than $5,000 of total income in 2019. 

To keep receiving the benefit, you can’t receive income from employment or self-employment between March 15 and Oct. 3, 2020. 

CERB applies to anyone who has self-quarantined or closed their businesses, voluntarily or by order of the government or regulatory body. Being declared an essential service won’t impact your eligibility. 

An application website is under construction and will be available in early April. Payments are expected to be received within 10 days of application. 

We’ll provide more information as it becomes available. 

Bank of Canada drops interest rate 

The Bank of Canada has dropped its interest rate 50 basis points to 0.25 per cent today. This is the lowest the Bank can make the rate without potentially disrupting short-term funding markets. 

This unscheduled rate cut is meant to provide support to the Canadian financial system and economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click here for the full release.

The federal government is asking banks and credit-card companies to lower interest rates for Canadians struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The government is also looking at extending lower-interest credit directly to Canadians. 

We’ll provide more information as it becomes available. 

Get the latest updates on our members’ Facebook group

For the latest updates, information and resources from your Board, follow us on our members’ Facebook Group.