Controlling Real Estate Transactions in the COVID-19 Situation
We provide some guidance and proactive measures you may wish to follow as you prepare and protect your buyers and sellers during this public health emergency. Please note that this is not legal advice, and certain situations should be thoroughly reviewed with the opposing agent or broker, client and/or counsel before measures are adopted.
Virtual Signing Meetings with the Lawyers
The original signed transfer and mortgage documents are still required by Land Titles. Buyers and sellers are not permitted to sign transfers and mortgages (and corresponding affidavits / statutory declarations) with DocuSign. However, as of April 16, 2020, the Law Society of Alberta has confirmed that lawyers are temporarily permitted to "meet" with clients through virtual platforms.
Proceeding on that basis, keep in mind that sufficient time is required by the law office to prepare and transmit documents to the client(s) for the virtual meeting.
We are still able to complete quick sales and purchases, however, we advise negotiating reasonable closing dates whenever possible especially given the COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses related to the real estate transaction (i.e. financial institutions, insurance providers, surveyors, moving companies, etc.) are experiencing office closures or staffing adjustments. Ensure a reasonable closing date is negotiated between the parties.
For real estate transactions scheduled to close during this public health emergency we advise considering adding thoughtful, properly drafted "COVID-19" clauses to the Additional Terms. We can assist in drafting such clauses for your real estate transactions.
RPR and Compliance
Ensure sellers (or their agents) order the Real Property Report and request the Compliance Certificate from the municipality as soon as possible. Surveying companies and municipal offices may be facing staffing pressures related to COVID-19, resulting in delays to the customer. As well, due to the economic slowdown and pressures, sellers may be facing financial constraints, and it is highly undesirable to have a situation compelling rush fees.
Similar to the above, home inspection companies, financial institutions, law offices and the like, have likely adjusted their daily business operations due to COVID-19. Business hours may be reduced, on-site, at-home visits may be restricted or conditional, all which result in delays to the client. Ensure the condition dates are reasonable for all parties given the current, unprecedented situation.
You may wish to assist your buyers further by sharing our additional simple home buying tips:
- House Insurance: You will need insurance for both your own protection and for your lender. This is a requirement for both single family home (fire insurance policy) and condominiums (condominium owner's policy). Start shopping around now! Contact the provider(s) as soon as possible, since they may be experiencing staffing issues related to COVID-19.
- Title Insurance: Worried about a recent renovation that the sellers did in the basement? If they didn't pull permits from the municipality, you could be liable for any issues that may arise. Title Insurance can offer you coverage for any unknown defect, as well as title fraud. Ask us more about obtaining this coverage!
- Utilities: Contact the utility provider of your choice and let them know when you will be taking possession of the property. You can also contact your internet and cable provider to arrange a time and date with them! Contact the provider(s) as soon as possible, since they may be experiencing staffing issues related to COVID-19.
- Movers: We know how excited you are to move into your new home, however, we suggest that you do not book them for 12 noon on the date of closing, just in case something happens that delays key release. Then you're not paying them to sit around! Schedule the moving company as soon as possible, and confirm the movers will attend your house during the pandemic.
You may wish to assist your sellers further by sharing our additional simple home selling tips:
- Change of Address: Set up mail forwarding with Canada Post and ensure you change your address with the Canada Revenue Agency, financial institutions, mail subscriptions, etc. Mail forwarding during the COVID-19 pandemic may ensure fewer individuals touch your mail.
- Complete Projects: If you have agreed to fix any items in the home prior to the possession date, please ensure that the items are completed at least a week prior to the closing date. You will need to provide copies of paid invoices to our office so we have confirmation the work is complete so we can advise the purchasers' lawyer. In the event you are planning to or are required to hire a contractor to complete the work, schedule the contractor as soon as possible, and confirm he or she will attend your house during the pandemic.
- Utilities: You will need to contact your providers to let them know when to cancel your services. We suggest that you arrange to cancel services the day after the closing date in case there are any reasons that key release is delayed. This is especially important in the colder months so that there is no interruption in your heating service.
- Insurance: You will want to contact your insurance company to let them know that you are moving and to set up a date to cancel your house/condo insurance. As with the utilities, we suggest to make this the day after the closing date in case there are any reasons that it is delayed. That way you still have insurance coverage should an issue arise.
- Movers: It is important to make sure that you have all of your possessions out of the property at least the day before the closing date. Once funds are received at our office from the purchasers' lawyer, we will have your realtor release keys by noon that day. Schedule the moving company as soon as possible, and confirm the movers will attend your house during the pandemic.
Please send us an email if you would like to discuss this further.
David van Leenen, Managing Partner
Barrister & Solicitor
Direct: 780 917 6933
Kendall Cairns, Associate
Barrister & Solicitor
Direct: 780 413 3360
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