Rent relief: What each province is doing to help residential tenants during the pandemic
TORONTO -- April 1 marks the first month rent will be due since the COVID-19 pandemic began and unemployed workers across the country are struggling to pay up after many businesses were forced to close their doors.
While the federal government has offered some financial relief to small businesses, it hasn’t released a specific plan to help individuals who are short on rent because of the outbreak’s economic toll.
As a result, provincial governments have rolled out various emergency measures to protect cash-strapped tenants from eviction during the crisis.
Here is a roundup of the different measures being taken by provincial governments across the country to help residential tenants during the pandemic.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
On March 26, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced that tenants of rental properties cannot be evicted if they’re unable to pay rent because of lost income from the pandemic.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
To support renters during the pandemic, the Prince Edward Island government has introduced the Temporary Rental Assistance Benefit to residents who have been laid off or are facing financial hardships due to the health emergency.
The benefit will provide up to $250 per month per household, which will be paid directly to landlords.
The assistance will be available to those who are not eligible for existing rental programs or social assistance.
Additionally, P.E.I. has suspended evictions from provincially-owned social housing units until June. The Office of the Attorney General has also asked the province’s Supreme Court to suspend evicting residents from their homes.
As of March 19, Nova Scotia renters will not be evicted for three months if their income has been impacted by the health emergency.
The N.S. government is also offering every individual and family member on income assistance an additional $50 starting March 20. Those recipients do not need to apply for the benefit, according to the government.
As part of its state of emergency declaration on March 19, the New Brunswick government has suspended all evictions of tenants who are unable to pay rent due to loss income from the pandemic until May 31.
The province has also offered a one-time income benefit of $900 for workers or self-employed people who have lost their jobs due to the state of emergency.
Quebec housing officials have suspended eviction hearings for tenants who can’t pay rent because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The suspension will continue for as long as the province is under a public health emergency.
The Quebec government has also provided temporary aid for workers that would see eligible residents receive a lump-sum payment of $573 for two weeks of self-isolation. The coverage could be extended to a maximum of 28 days for those who test positive for COVID-19.
On March 17, the Ontario government announced that no new eviction notices will be issued until “further notice” and the enforcement of scheduled evictions will be postponed.
However, tenants are required to pay rent while an eviction is not being enforced, according to the government. If they can’t pay due to the pandemic, the government asks landlords and tenants to work together to come up with an alternative arrangement.
Ontario residents may also be eligible for financial assistance during the pandemic to cover the costs of basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter, through the Ontario Works program.
As part of the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Manitoba government has postponed non-urgent eviction hearings until May 31. The province has also frozen all rent increases that were scheduled to take effect on April 1 or later until May 31.
On March 26, the Saskatchewan government announced the Office of Residential Tenancies will stop accepting eviction applications for missed or late rent.
Additionally, eviction orders and previously scheduled hearings for non-urgent matters will be cancelled.
Saskatchewan has also introduced financial assistance of up to $450 per week for a maximum of two weeks to workers in self-isolation or who aren’t eligible for other government programs, such as federal Employment Insurance.
The Alberta government has suspended evictions of tenants who can’t pay rent or their utility bills before May 1. However, landlords can still file applications for evictions of tenants for matters unrelated to rent or utility payments.
The province has also frozen rent increases on residential properties for the duration of Alberta’s State of Public Health Emergency.
What’s more, landlords will not be able to charge late fees on late rental payments until June 30 and they cannot be collected retroactively.
Residents of Alberta may be eligible for a one-time payment of $1,146 in emergency isolation support if they’re in self-isolation or if they’re the sole caregiver of someone in isolation.
On March 25, British Columbia suspended all current and future evictions for the duration of the pandemic. Exceptions will be made only in situations where tenant behaviour is putting others in danger.
The province is also freezing rent increases while the health emergency continues.
Additionally, the provincial government has introduced a Temporary Rental Supplement Program that will give $500 per month for up to four months to landlords with tenants who can’t pay their rent because their income has been affected by the pandemic.
The rent relief is in addition to a one-time payment of $1,000 to B.C. residents who have lost income due to the crisis. The payment will be available to people who are eligible to receive federal Employment Insurance and the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
On March 26, the Yukon government announced that landlords will be banned from evicting tenants who can’t pay their rent because they’re self-isolating or have lost work due to the pandemic. The ban on evictions will be in effect for 90 days.
The territory also said tenants will be allowed to pay their rent late if they’re unable to pay it when it’s due.
What’s more, renters who can’t afford their rent because of the health emergency can end their tenancy early without penalty.
The government has also introduced the new Paid Sick Leave Program, which allows workers without paid sick leave or those who are self-employed to self-isolate without losing income. The rebate will be paid directly to employers and those who are self-employed and will cover up to 10 days of those wages.
The Northwest Territories government has not announced financial aid directly in support of renters; however, those in public housing have been offered some relief.
The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation has allowed tenants to defer their rent payments until a later date. Those renters will also not be evicted during the pandemic, unless they pose a significant risk to other tenants or a NWTHC building.
Residents in the territory may also be eligible for a one-time emergency allowance of $500 for a single recipient and $1,000 for households with two or more people to cover basic costs during the health emergency.
The Nunavut government has not yet announced any direct relief or financial to residential tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic.