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03.31.2020

Should You Pay Your Rent During COVID-19?

Homeowners

There is lots to think about right now, but before I say anything else, I just want to acknowledge all of our clients who are providing essential services, and say how much we appreciate how hard you’re working right now to keep us all going.  You are the real heroes!

Now…on to the situation at hand…

April 1 has come & gone, but the crisis is far from over, and we know that many tenants and landlords are really nervous about making ends meet right now.

There has been a lot of talk about relief, deferrals, and whether or not rent and mortgage payments will need to be made; but there really hasn’t been a lot of clarity around who qualifies for relief.

Here is some information that we hope will help you to know where you stand:

First, the easy part:  If you can afford to pay your rent or mortgage, you still have to pay it.  If you are still collecting income – whether from your job as an essential service provider or from pensions, social assistance, or another source –please make your payments as usual.

However, if you are a tenant whose income has been reduced or completely interrupted by this pandemic, know that there are protections in place for you.  According to the Landlord/Tenant Board’s website, retroactive to March 16:

  • All hearings related to eviction applications, unless the matter relates to an urgent issue such as an illegal act or serious impairment of safety; and
  • The issuance of eviction orders, unless the matter relates to an urgent issue such as an illegal act or serious impairment of safety

…are suspended

There is an additional note that:

All incoming applications will continue to be processed. Hearings for matters not relating to evictions will proceed by the most appropriate means (telephone or written hearing) and orders for these matters will be issued.

Here is an important detail:  Landlords can still give eviction notices.  They will likely sit in queue until things go back to normal, and be processed at a later date if rent remains in arrears.  So far, we are seeing rent payments being deferred, not forgiven.  Rent will likely need to be paid eventually.

Check this website for more information about Renting Changes during COVID 19.

As for Landlords who must figure out how to pay the bills that are normally covered by rental income, there are several options open to you to help alleviate some stress.

Mortgage lenders, including Canada’s big six banks and others, have all been working very hard to accommodate property owners.  Scotiabank, for example, has announced that they will consider up to 3 income properties for mortgage payment deferrals.  This could provide relief for small landlords whose tenants are out of work and need more time during this period.  Like rent, though, these payments are not forgiven, they are deferred – they will become payable at a later date.  You’ll find a list of phone numbers for most of the major lenders on our website and our Instagram page for quick reference.

As for municipal taxes, Hamilton has voted to waive penalties and interest for 30 days after a first tax installment deadline of April 30.  The details of how this would affect taxpayers who are on monthly payment plans through their bank are a little fuzzy, though.

The Niagara Region website states that Niagara is running business as usual, but that each local municipality has its own billing and collection procedures.

The key to all of this is clear communication.  There hasn’t been time to create a solid, universal set of rules, and many times, things are being decided on a case-by-case basis.

If you are a tenant who is struggling – take the initiative to call your landlord to make arrangements.  Maybe you can pay part of your rent, or maybe you just need more time.  Whatever you do, don’t just dodge phone calls.

If you are a property owner who can’t afford to make a mortgage payment, take the initiative and call your lender.  Don’t just bounce a payment and expect them to know why.  Set out clear expectations and keep the lines of communication open.  Bank employees are working really hard right now, too – so try to be patient with them!

The Landlord Self-Help Centre is a resource that is available to you as well.

If you have condo fees to pay, call your property manager.  Same principle applies – communicate openly.

You can be sure that some of these conversations are going to be difficult, but it’s best to be open and keep talking through it.

I hope this has given a little bit of clarity ahead of April 1.  And I really hope you’re all taking good care of yourselves – taking all the precautions you can to stay healthy.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions we can help answer for you.  Tyson, Barb and I are here and always happy to assist if you need us!

-Tanya

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