To put it quite mildly, staging home open houses and showings during the COVID-19 pandemic is not a good idea at all, but despite the obvious dire circumstances, there are still instances of landlords and realtors pushing their renters to open up their house.
Over the past week, Ben Stutterheim says he has received repeat requests by the homeowner and their realtor to allow visits into the townhouse in Richmond his family has been renting for over the past year.
But there is more, as he also received a notice for a rent increase.
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All of this came after the provincial government mandated physical distancing, self-isolation, and a temporary ban on rent increases and most types of evictions. Landlords are also now restricted from entering the homes of their tenants, unless there is an emergency dealing with health and safety or to prevent damage to the property.
Giving the homeowner the benefit of the doubt, Stutterheim provided her with a website link to the provincial government’s bulletins on policy changes, but she allegedly still persisted.
“I don’t really care about the $65 increase on a $2,600 monthly rental,” Stutterheim told Daily Hive Urbanized. “But it is the principle behind it at times like this. She was also asking to do a showing and have people in the house doing cosmetic upgrades to help sell it during this pandemic.”
Then on Wednesday, the realtor reached out to him as well, and asked if he would be willing to allow a showing to an interested party that is “serious.” They wanted to see the townhouse today at 2 pm.
Stutterheim shared his correspondence with both the homeowner and the realtor with Daily Hive Urbanized. Of course, he did not oblige to their requests.
But he adds that his frustrations with the landlord and realtor began the day after they moved in, long before the onset of the pandemic.
When he was scouting for a place to rent to accommodate the long-term needs of his family with a newborn, he was originally informed by the listing realtor that the homeowner was looking for a long-term tenant.
Shortly after getting settled into the townhouse, the homeowner informed him of her intention to have two to four open houses each month.
“She told me the property had been listed for months and that she told the realtor to inform us,” he said.
Over the past year, Stutterheim alleges his family has been forced to endure 26 showings. Visitors have opened their young daughters’ room, waking her during nap times and using their washrooms.
“Not sure how, but someone urinated on our wall,” he said.
Daily Hive Urbanized reached out to Royal Pacific, the real estate brokerage the realtor works under. Rose Yih, the managing broker of the firm, says a clear “No Open House” policy notice was provided to their realtors on March 23, which was included in mass emails and the brokerage’s intranet, and printed and posted at all of their offices.
As indicated in other COVID-19 company policy bulletins on January 30, March 17, and March 25, the brokerage took a series of other measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus amongst their employees and clients in all interactions and business activity.
“Do not set up meetings or appointments to view any property. Our company policy is not to have any ‘Open House’ at all during this epidemic period,” reads Royal Pacific’s bulletin on March 25 reminding the policy.
In an email to Daily Hive Urbanized on the matter, the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing says the top priority should be about safety, and landlords are being asked to respect the physical distancing and self-isolation measures during the pandemic.
They also referred to the Real Estate Council of BC’s (RECBC) strong recommendation to temporarily suspend the practice of open houses and in-person showings.
The Ministry added RECBC informed licensed real estate professionals that the provincial government had issued immediate orders “empowering renters to refuse entry to landlords.” The full consent of the existing tenant is now required to show a rented home for open houses or to show to prospective tenants.
Furthermore, if tenants and landlords cannot resolve these challenges on their own, like other disputes, they should reach out to the Residential Tenancy Branch.
Ashley Smith, the president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, said the overwhelming feedback they have been receiving from realtors is that they are committed to protecting their clients and helping prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, along with other associations and the real estate regulator in BC, has been strongly recommending that realtors stop holding open houses and strictly follow government’s physical distancing requirements,” said Smith.
“If the public has concerns that some realtors are not meeting their professional obligations and acting contrary to the public’s best interest, we encourage them to report their concerns to the Real Estate Council of BC.”