The coronavirus is a global pandemic affecting all aspects of our lives. As of March 26th 2020, there were 3,385 total cases of COVID-19 in Canada. Of those 3,385 cases, 688 of these are in Ontario and 339 are cases in Toronto. There has not been a pandemic like this since the 1918 Spanish Flu.
The COVID-19 situation is ever-changing. Health experts do not know how long it will last, but many recommend at least a six-week shutdown throughout Canada. This will have a severe impact on the economy. Were the government to adopt the six-week shutdown, it is estimated that the economy would take a huge second-quarter hit, which would result in just a 0.3% growth rate for the year.
The projected economic downturn will likely have a huge impact on landlords and property managers. Helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Canada is the responsibility of everyone including landlords and property managers. Here we’ll explain the considerations landlords and property managers need to make in these tough times.
Controlling the virus spread
Buttonwood, who offers residential property management Toronto, states that landlords and property managers can help control the spread of COVID-19 by helping tenants follow good practices:
“The health and wellbeing of our tenants is a top priority for property managers. We recommend drawing up a plan which will include how your agency will handle and identify Coronavirus cases and emergencies, and how you will reinforce cleanliness and sanitation across your properties or common areas, such as setting up hand sanitizer stations. Providing tenants and landlords with consistent updates will make sure they feel connected and looked after in these troubling times.”
It’s also important to make sure your tenants know to keep at least a six-foot distance from others and practice social distancing techniques to stay safe. Follow the Public Health Agency’s recommendations and post signs in multiple languages.
Also, consider increasing your janitorial services. All public surfaces and common areas should remain clean and sanitized. You can also provide information to tenants about how they can keep their residences properly cleaned.
Know your lease terms
The Canadian government has announced an $82 billion emergency response package to combat the economic effects of COVID-19. This package includes moving back the tax deadline so that more money stays in Canadian citizen’s hands, increasing the Canada Child Benefit, providing small business wage subsidies, and assisting at-risk populations.
Even with the emergency response package, Canadian citizens will still feel economic hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Landlords and property managers must know their rights during this anxious time.
The most important item for you to be familiar with is the lease or tenancy agreement. This is the contract between you and your tenant. It outlines the amount of rent, rights of the landlord and the tenant, and any other rules surrounding the property. A standard lease also includes the conditions of evictions and the breaking or renewing of the lease.
While you probably had a hand in creating the lease agreement, now is the time to renew your familiarity with that document. Ensure that you are extremely familiar with all of the terms of the lease. The more you know your rights and responsibilities, the better prepared you will be to handle COVID-19 and the resulting economic fallout.
Understand the laws governing your right to evict tenants
The economy has been mentioned multiple times throughout this article. The unfortunate truth is that almost fifty percent of Canadian renters live paycheck to paycheck. It is estimated that 24% of Canadian renters do not have enough savings to last one week without a paycheck. These people do not have savings that will allow them to weather financial hardship.
The emergency response package proposed by the Canadian government does provide aid to at-risk populations. But, it may not be enough to help all renters who lose their jobs. One of the main reasons for evictions is the non-payment of rent or constantly paying the rent after the deadline.
In Ontario, landlords and property managers must apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to evict a tenant. You must follow all of the requirements of this board, including providing written notice of eviction and the reasons for the eviction. Sometimes landlords may also be required to provide the tenant a certain number of days to correct the issue to stave off eviction.
Currently, there is not a rent freeze in Toronto or anywhere in Canada. The lack of a rent freeze means that landlords and property managers can still require regular rent payments. However, on March 19th, Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued an order that suspended the creation of new eviction orders and the enforcement of existing eviction orders indefinitely. Thus, landlords and property managers can require rent payments, but they cannot evict a tenant that does not pay. The Landlord and Tenant Board have also closed indefinitely, which leaves landlords with very little legal recourse for removing tenants.
The suspension of evictions is one way that the Ontario government has attempted to help renters. Yet, some believe this is not enough. Many experts and renters are not happy with the lack of a rent freeze. The big Canadian banks have offered mortgage relief to homeowners, and renters feel like they should have the same relief. Some have even argued for a “rent strike” in Toronto.
What this creates for landlords and property managers is an immensely stressful time. So far the Canadian government has done nothing to ease the worry of landlords who have their mortgages to pay. With no way to evict non-paying tenants, the situations for the landlords themselves could become dire.
The best thing that you can do as a landlord is to keep abreast of the situation and follow any new guidelines. Follow all health and safety recommendations from the Public Health Agency. Also, be sure to remain clear about your rights as a landlord or property manager. We are in an entirely unprecedented situation.
Rules and regulations are changing at an almost daily rate. Do your best to stay up-to-date with your information.