With the arrival of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and a sharp increase in case numbers and hospital admissions, Ontario is once again in a State of Emergency that includes a Stay-at-Home order.
Similar to previous Stay-at-Home orders throughout this pandemic, the government is advising that people only leave home for necessities, such as for, but not limited to, (please note that this is not an exhaustive list):
- Food and medications.
- Healthcare services, including vaccinations.
- Work, the nature of which, requires you to leave your residence.
The key difference this time, however, is the Province has introduced new powers for law enforcement to ticket individuals who are travelling outside the home for non-essential reasons. Law enforcement will have the ability to stop individuals, ask them where they are going, where they live and if they are found to be breaking a rule under the Emergency Orders issue fines up to $750.
It is also worth noting for real estate brokerages that the Province is deploying Ministry of Labour inspectors to office buildings (starting with law firms and accounting offices) to ensure they are following all COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.
OREA is aware of these changes and has prepared the following communication and materials to help keep our Members safe.
As REALTORS®, the Province has not prohibited us from continuing our business activities, but it is not business as usual. The Stay-at-Home order, not unlike the last time, only permits REALTORS® to leave their residence if the nature of the business activity cannot be performed in their residence.
The Province has pledged to be more stringent which could mean the levying of fines for those in violation.
Provincial offences officers and the police are entitled to demand and obtain the name, date of birth and address of any individual they have reasonable and probable grounds to believe has failed to comply with the emergency Stay-at-Home order or other emergency orders.
This risk existed during the previous State of Emergency, but the province, health officials and law enforcement have given every indication that they will be both more vigilant and strict as they deal with the third wave.
If the specific activity associated with your work requires you to leave your residence, i.e. such as meeting with clients, visiting your brokerage office or conducting an in-person meeting, having documentation from your employer may be helpful.
An employer may find the attached fillable and printable letters useful having made the determination with respect to the required activity.
These documents are available for download at OREA’s COVID-19 Information Hub:
Necessary Work Outside of Home Letter for Employees
- Necessary Work Outside of Home Letter for Independent Contractors and Employees of PRECs
- Essential Services Card for REALTORS® to use During Stay-at-Home Order.
- Real Estate Essential Services Card for Clients During Stay-at-Home Order.
- Real Estate Essential Services Card for Service Providers During Stay-at-Home-Order
What about ancillary real estate services (i.e., videographers)?
Ancillary service providers, such as photographers, videographers, cleaners and stagers, remain businesses that are not necessarily obligated to be closed, provided they supply a business that may remain open, such as a REALTOR®’s business.
However, for them to carry out activities outside of their home, that work must be necessary for REALTOR®’s business. Additionally, each of the persons in charge of those ancillary businesses has an obligation under the current Shutdown Zone Rules to determine whether their employees or staff must work outside the home each time they contemplate doing so. A REALTOR® cannot make that decision for the service provider, although advice from the REALTOR® about why the specific activity is required and necessary for the REALTOR®’s business will likely assist the service provider make that determination. Furthermore, given the obligation on each service provider’s managers to make that determination, REALTOR®’s should be careful about, and likely should refrain from, insisting on a particular service being provided at a particular place or time by a particular individual or inappropriately applying pressure on the service provider or individual.
The individual who is being asked to work outside of his or her residence must separately determine whether the nature of the work requires the individual to leave their residence before he or she can do so. In making that decision, the individual can consider whether their employer (but not the REALTOR®) has determined that the nature of the individual’s work requires attendance at the workplace.
The business of real estate continues, but it’s NOT business as usual
The third wave of the pandemic is much more severe than what we have seen previously. The variants of the virus spread faster and easier than what we saw last spring and through December and January. The result is a drastic spike in new daily cases and immense pressure on the healthcare system.
If you can do your business remotely, please take every effort to do so.
Use electronic means first, foremost and to the greatest extent possible. Exhaust all virtual tools at your disposal, including virtual tours and open houses, before meeting with clients in-person and then only if absolutely necessary.
If you still have questions, please send them to email@example.com.
The past 13 months have been unlike any other. It has been hard on everyone, but we appreciate all that REALTORS® have done to keep themselves, their families and their clients safe.
But until we get to that point, please remain vigilant. Stay home, stay safe and help save lives.