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COVID protocols slack in Toronto real estate showings, tenant says

Click to play video: 'Tenant says realtors didn’t follow safety requests at showings' Tenant says realtors didn’t follow safety requests at showings
WATCH: Tenant says realtors didn’t follow safety requests at showings – Jan 19, 2022

A Toronto man renting a condominium apartment says real estate agents who showed it to prospective buyers disregarded COVID protocols. When he objected he was warned he could be evicted if he refused to allow others inside.

Connolly told Global News in a television interview that he asked the listing brokerage representing his landlord to ensure that touch surfaces were wiped down in his rented unit after showings.

The Ontario Real Estate Association, whose mandate is to help “realtors succeed in building stronger communities” according to its mission statement, directs members to take COVID protocols in showings seriously.

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“Ensure door handles, light switches, counters, cabinet knobs and other high-touch surfaces are targeted. Once a showing is complete the home should be cleaned and disinfected again,” OREA writes in its guidance for safe in-person showings.

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Connolly says there were seven showings on the first weekend, each with about two prospective buyers, and one group that included four visitors to his unit.

“Five of seven did not follow instructions to sanitize touch surfaces after viewing,” Connolly said.

Asked how he could be sure they were not compliant, Connolly said he was present for about half the visits.

“For the other showings I set up a camera for my own safety to watch them,” he said, adding he did not make recordings but watched at another location.

Connolly also said the brokerage did not attempt to maximize virtual visits before scheduling in-person showings as advised by OREA.

“They listed my unit using stock photos not of my unit which forced people to come in and look at my unit,” he said.

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OREA instructs members that “the use of virtual open houses and virtual tools are still strongly recommended.”

“Conduct as much business as possible virtually,” OREA tells members on its website.

When Connolly, in a series of emails, reported his concerns that buyer agents were not following his requests in accordance with the OREA rules, he finally advised the brokerage that he would not permit further showings until cleaning was made a priority.

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The response was swift.

“If I didn’t back down they were going to move to evict me,” Connolly told Global News, providing an email sent by the brokerage raising the possibility of legal action and removal.

Conolly, a project manager in the construction sector, says he considered it a direct threat and he allowed showings to continue.

The listing brokerage is Pierre Carapetian Group, which boasts “Pierre is in the top .3 per cent of Toronto realtors…with over 14 years of experience.”

Carapetian’s website claims “We’ve facilitated over half a billion dollars in Toronto real estate transactions.”

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When Global News contacted Carapetian for comment, an associate speaking on his behalf said “no sorry” in response to a request for a video interview, adding “he is booked this week.”

However, in a 465-word written statement, Carapetian asserted “we have done nothing illegal.”

Carapetian said his company “did try to accommodate” Connolly “as much…as reasonably possible.”

“We took precautions to call each showing agent and personally ask them to wipe down surfaces in addition to following the showing instructions,” the statement continued.

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Carapetian said “we called the Landlord and Tenant Board to verify if the tenant’s request was reasonable” and that blocking of viewings could give the owner the opportunity to consider an eviction process.

Later, Carapetian accused Connolly of trying “at every turn to impede the sale of this property, deliberately and intentionally.”

However, he offered no details.

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The second-floor condominium unit, which Connolly had expressed an interest in buying after moving in about a year ago, has since been sold. Connolly says he understands he will soon receive an eviction notice because the new owner wishes to occupy the apartment.

One of Carapetian’s business associates, speaking on the broker’s behalf, had previously told Global News the written reference to eviction for not cooperating was “not a threat”.

In explaining that the agency “did everything we could” she suggested by telephone that Connolly could do his own housekeeping after the showings.

“Couldn’t he do the same thing? Couldn’t he just wipe down the surfaces?” the spokesperson said, before being reminded that Connolly was a tenant, not the unit’s owner.

Carapetian concluded the letter to Global News with a warning:

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“We consider these types of statements on our business slanderous and misleading and we will seek damages for any false or misleading narratives,” Carapetian wrote.

Connolly says he raised the concerns about cleanliness and safety to alert other tenants in the province to make sure they assert their rights if their unit is put up for sale during the pandemic.

“So that every tenant is respected and their safe place where they should feel safe—at home during a pandemic when they’re told to stay at home—that they they have that protection.“

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