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Buying Or Selling Property With A Tenant? FAQs For What To Do During The Covid Pandemic.

What Has Changed?

The provincial government issued an emergency order at the end of March regarding residential tenancies in BC. The order has placed a ban on all evictions except in very narrow circumstances. If a landlord gives a tenant a notice to evict on or after March 30, 2020 it is of no force and effect.

Practically Speaking What Does This Means?

This means the tenant can ignore any eviction notice that they may receive from a landlord if the notice was issued on or after March 30, 2020. It is important for a landlord to note that a tenant failing to pay rent, or a landlord issuing a notice to end tenancy because they have sold a property are not exceptions to this rule.

If I Want To Sell What Should I Do?

If you are a landlord and you are considering selling it is prudent to speak to a tenant before you list your property to learn if they are able or willing to move. If they are not, your hands are unfortunately tied as you cannot require the tenant to leave until the emergency order is lifted. You can still list your property, but you must either sell the property subject to the tenancy, or set your completion date several months out. If you set your completion date several months out you should still have extension provisions included to ensure you are protected under the contract in the event the emergency order is not lifted before the completion date.

If you are a landlord/owner who is selling you also need to keep in mind that life changes quickly with Covid-19. Your tenant may initially be willing to leave, but if they begin to show symptoms of Covid-19 or are required to self-quarantine around the completion and possession date then you may be unable to transfer a vacant property to the buyers. For contracts involving a tenant, you should add a term that if the tenant cannot leave for reasons directly related to Covid-19 then the completion and possession dates will be automatically extended by 30 days.

It is important to build these provisions into the contract early on to protect yourself. If there is no provision in place it is significantly harder to negotiate a compromise or extension later, and you risk breaching the contract and being exposed to the corresponding legal consequences.

If I Want To Buy What Should I Do?

If you are a purchaser and the property you want to buy has a tenant then you also need to be aware of this and take steps to protect yourself. For example, if a seller cannot give you vacant possession on the possession date because a tenant is remaining at the property, or if the tenant is in self-quarantine, then you have a few options available. You can negotiate with the seller to extend, and you can think about on what terms you would be willing to do this; or, you can complete the purchase subject to the tenant remaining in the property, and you then become landlord; or, you can walk away from the deal as a result of the seller’s failure to complete. It would be prudent to consider what other housing options you might have in the event that your seller is unable to give you vacant possession, or the completion and possession date must be extended.

All of the above options have many different elements to them, and depending on your circumstances some may not be feasible or desirable. If you are concerned about a deal completing and your ability to take possession due to a tenant it is important you speak with your lawyer as soon as possible so we can work with you towards a solution.

What Should Both The Seller And Buyer Do?

Address these issues early on in your negotiations. If the issue arises then the contract contemplates that and there is a process to follow, if the issue does not arise then the deal can close normally and the tenant provisions never need to be relied upon. For both a buyer and seller, if there are no provisions in place it can be significantly harder to negotiate later and depending on the circumstances you may be in a very weak negotiating position.

If I Am A Tenant What Should I Do?

With the current ban on evictions a landlord cannot issue you notice. If they do, you can let them know about the recent changes that have come into effect and you can ignore the notice. If you know your landlord wants to sell, it is up to you to agree to move or not, but they currently cannot require you to leave.

If you are having difficulty making your monthly rent follow this link to see if you are eligible for a temporary rental supplement of up to $500.00. If you are eligible this supplement is paid directly to your landlord to help offset your rent. Applications are being processed beginning mid-April.

The foregoing is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, please contact the author who would be pleased to discuss the issues above with you in the context of your particular circumstances. We are available for videoconference and phone calls to adhere to physical distancing recommendations.


The foregoing is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, please contact the author who would be pleased to discuss the issues above with you in the context of your particular circumstances. We are available for videoconference and phone calls to adhere to physical distancing recommendations.

Alison McLeod is a real estate and business lawyer at Doak Shirreff Lawyers LLP. She can be reached at [email protected] or 250.979.2561.