COVID-19 Protocols: Stay Informed and Ready to Adapt

The Professional Standards team has received a number of calls recently suggesting that some REALTORS® may not be providing real estate services in a manner that optimally reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

We recognize that the vast majority of Realtors follow the provincial health protocols, however, given this unpredictable environment, we also realize that it can be tough to keep track of the rapidly changing requirements and recommendations. To address any uncertainty, this article summarizes the current rules and guidelines for reducing the risk of COVID-19 spread while continuing to provide real estate services.

Open Houses

On November 5, 2020, the Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate (OSRE), Real Estate Council of BC (RECBC) and BC Real Estate Association of BC (BCREA) urged all real estate agents to suspend open houses due to a surge in COVID-19 cases across the province. That advisory is still in place as new daily case numbers remain high. To compensate for suspending open houses, it is recommended that, whenever possible, Realtors utilize technology (e.g. virtual tours) to conduct their business. For tips on the tools available, we encourage you to check out this previously published FVREB NewsReal article.

Private Showings

While open houses are strongly discouraged and temporarily not advertised on the MLS®, private showings are still permitted. On the same day as the advisory against open houses, RECBC and BCREA distributed new guidelines on how to conduct Safer Showings During BC’s Second Wave. In that document, Realtors were given guidance on how to assess, prepare for and help prevent COVID-19 health risks while conducting private showings. To that end, RECBC and BCREA urge use of the following best practices:

  • Consider the best interest of your client(s) first;
  • Understand and stay informed of safety protocols;
  • Clearly communicate and document safety protocols;
  • Reduce in-person interactions by leveraging technology;
  • Pre-screen buyers before booking a showing;
  • Plan in advance;
  • Keep safety in mind during the showing;
  • Consider the requirements of multi-tenanted properties;
  • Safely conclude any showing(s); and
  • Anticipate and respond to community concerns.

You can find more details on these best practices in the Safer Showings During BC’s Second Wave document, and we strongly encourage all Realtors to take a few minutes to review them.

Presentation Centres

A Realtor who works at a presentation centre recently informed us about other Realtors bringing large numbers of people to view the show home. Since a presentation centre is a place of business, the rules for how many people can be inside at once will depend on the presentation centre’s COVID-19 safety plan, as approved by WorkSafeBC.

With that in mind, we want to remind Realtors who work at presentation centres about your obligation to understand and apply the protocols that are contained in your presentation centre’s safety plan. In doing so, you must ensure that all visitors, including other Realtors and the public, comply with the safety plan rules. 

Furthermore, when attending appointments, visiting Realtors must also understand and follow the safety plan rules. This includes not bringing more than the permitted number of clients and ensuring that your clients know and agree to the safety plan rules prior to entering the premises.

Brokerage Offices

In addition to the rules and guidelines for showings, OSRE, RECBC and BCREA have updated their COVID-19 safe practices Checklist for Managing Brokers. Once again, we encourage all Realtors, and especially managing brokers, to spend some time reviewing the finer details of these guidelines. In the meantime, a general overview is set out below.

Step 1: Assess Your Workplace

  • Determine changes needed to your office to create a safer workplace; and
  • Plan for business continuity.

Step 2: Develop a Safe Work Plan for Your Office

  • Develop policies to ensure health, safety and hygiene;
  • Prepare your office;
  • Develop HR policies and staff supports; and
  • Develop visitor policies.

Step 3: Adapt Real Estate Practices

  • Develop physical distancing policies to ensure compliance with public health orders when working with consumers;
  • Develop practice guidance on safe showings;
  • Determine what new documentation or changes to existing documentation are needed;
  • Provide guidance to Realtors on brokerage expectations; and
  • Provide guidance to Realtors on supporting consumers through to completion.

Step 4: Ensure Compliance

  • Develop a plan to train office staff and Realtors on new policies and procedures and ensure compliance; and
  • Develop a plan to monitor and adapt to changes to public health guidance.

Source: FVREB Professional Standards