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Real Estate deals: common COVID-19 questions

Apr 14 2020

With the widespread disruption arising from COVID-19, many clients have expressed concerns regarding the completion of their real estate deals over the coming weeks and months. Please find below a list of frequently asked questions and our recommendations to reduce any complications in the purchase or sale of your home.

While we have introduced new protocols to protect the safety of everyone during this time, please be assured that our firm remains full operational and available to assist you during this time.

Are real estate or mortgage transactions suspended?

No. In BC, financial institutions, lawyers, and land registration services have all been deemed essential services by the BC government. Therefore, these organizations can continue to operate provided they adapt their services and workplace to the orders and recommendations of the Provincial Health Officer (“PHO”).

Clients can rest assured that RDM Lawyers LLP continues to operate and has implemented various safety measures in accordance with the recommendations of the PHO. These measures include:

  1. Reduced operating hours with limited in-office staff;
  2. Only taking in-person client appointments for those matters where it is absolutely necessary;
  3. Social distancing techniques throughout our office, including avoiding common greeting such as handshakes, and keeping a distance of two (2) meters from others; and
  4. A designated meeting room which is disinfected following each meeting and throughout the day.

What can I do to have my real estate transaction proceed as seamlessly as possible?

Early communication with your realtor, lawyer and mortgage broker is important to verify there are no additional information or documents needed for the real estate transaction.

Another option is to amend your contract of purchase and sale to include a provision which addresses any delay in completion as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you need assistance with this, one of our Real Estate lawyers can guide you through the process.

Will I be in breach of my PURCHASE contract if my sale does not complete?  

Once all condition precedents have been satisfied or waived, both the buyer and seller are bound by the terms of the purchase contract and by law must respect their obligations to complete the transaction. Alternatively, the party that has not breached the contract may be entitled to damages.

If you are prevented from closing the transaction due to circumstances outside of your control, there are a few options available to remedy your anticipated breach of contract:

  1. You may reach out to the other party and extend the completion date stipulated in the purchase contract. This amendment would need to be executed in writing. Given these unique circumstances, the hope is that common sense will prevail and there should not be any issue with extending the completion date if this has been communicated early.
  2. If a COVID-19 clause has been included in your purchase contract, the completion of the transaction can be delayed for such amount of time as you are prevented from completing the transaction.

Can I sign documents electronically?

Yes, many documents may be signed electronically. However, as part of a real estate transaction, there are a few documents, known as instruments, that must be executed and witnessed in front of an officer (a lawyer or notary). Due to this personal attendance requirement for real estate transactions, we are taking meetings with appropriate social distancing measures.

The Land Title and Survey Authority has also implemented temporary changes with respect to the witnessing requirements of real estate instruments that we can guide you through if necessary, including signing separate identical documents so that safe distances can be maintained between you and the lawyer witnessing your signature.

In the event you are self-quarantined or are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, please reach out to our office early to discuss your options.

Further advice:

While real estate transactions look a little bit different these days, our Real Estate Group is still completing deals and is happy to guide you through this process. Please contact our office at 604.853.0774 if we can be of further assistance.

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