COVID-19: What It Means for Landlords and Tenants
COVID-19 has required us all to face new and challenging situations. So much of our everyday lives have been affected. Businesses have suffered, jobs have been lost and many incomes have been drastically reduced. The government has tried to help by supplementing incomes while the shutdowns happened. Still, whether you are a landlord who is having trouble collecting rents owed or if you are a tenant unable to pay your rent, I have been asked so many questions lately from both sides of this equation. There are two sides, or as I like to say three sides to every story. In most cases it is the landlord side, the tenant side and then the truth, which often lies somewhere in the middle.
Because we are all living in these challenging times, the Ontario government is calling on all landlords to do what they can to try to accommodate tenants that may be struggling. They are asking landlords to try to work with tenants and, when possible, allow payments to be deferred or make other payment arrangements to help those that need it without adding the worry of eviction.
Landlords may be able to work out deals with their own lenders and mortgage companies or with CMHC insurance to defer their payments so they can then pass these allowances down to their tenants. Landlords may also be able to get some relief from their municipality to defer property tax payments and service fees to help. This is a big ask of landlords, but what are the other options at this point? For tenants truly struggling, they are in a no-win situation. As always, there will be those that take advantage of the system; tenants that do not pay rent even though they are capable and landlords who will defer payments but not pass the savings down to their tenants. We hope this is not the standard but the minority.
If a tenant is struggling, it is their responsibility to reach out to their landlord and explain the circumstances. The hope is that they can work out a temporary solution. In March, when the shutdown first happened, there was a freeze on all evictions so people would not be evicted in the middle of the pandemic. Since then if you were unable to pay your rent due to COVID-19 and were not able to make arrangements with your landlord, you may seek free legal advice from Community Legal Services.
Landlords cannot charge late fees or penalties to past due rents. Tenants are legally permitted to stay in their unit until a Sheriff enforces an issued eviction notice.
If tenants have a scheduled hearing in front of the board, they may obtain free legal advice through The Tenant Duty Counsel Program.
The Ontario government also issued an emergency order to suspend all limitation periods at the time of lockdown. This order has since been lifted in mid-September and the Landlord Tenant Board in Kitchener-Waterloo has resumed hearings and mediations. These hearings are virtual via Microsoft Teams, Zoom or by phone. Also starting in August, the board has resumed issuing eviction notices that were pending prior to the lockdown in March. The board has been gradually working to catch up on the backlog and resume regular services virtually.
If a landlord is wanting to evict a tenant, the first step is always to serve the tenant with a notice of termination. This must be done before a landlord can apply for an eviction order from the board. The Landlord Tenant board is currently accepting and processing all eviction applications. They are encouraging filing online using E-file. Applications submitted via mail and fax will be accepted but they warn that the processing times will be longer.
Landlords that are small scale may obtain information, advice, and referrals from The Landlord Self Help Centre.
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