April 24, 2020
Ontario renters impacted financially by COVID-19 crisis left vulnerable with May rent due in a week
Tenants and Landlords both still waiting for Province to provide a plan
Toronto – The provincial government is being called on to provide support for tenants who are unable to pay their rent on May 1st due to lost income because of the COVID – 19 crisis. Renters and Landlords in Ontario, like those in British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, are in need of assistance to ensure that they are not in financial ruin when the crisis is over.
“Renters have been left out of provincial emergency support plans in Ontario,” said Josh Matlow, City Councillor, Toronto-St. Paul’s. “Even with federal government income assistance, far too many tenants are still being forced to choose between paying rent and buying groceries.”
The average rent for a 1 bedroom is now $2,250, more than the $2,000 monthly CERB payment from the federal government. While eviction orders are frozen during the course of the pandemic, Landlords are still allowed to proceed with eviction notices (N4s).
“The province has so far largely been missing in action when it comes to renters’ issues,” said Geordie Dent, Executive Director of the Federation of Metro Toronto Tenants’ Associations (FMTA). “Without some kind of intervention we could be looking at tens of thousands of evictions in the coming months.”
To support tenants and provide surety to Landlords, the Premier must provide a clear strategy that includes:
- Rent forgiveness for vulnerable tenants: Offset payments for Landlords to forgive rent for tenants who now qualify for federal income supports. Deferrals could lead to mass evictions and financial ruin when the COVID – 19 crisis is over. The provincial government in British Colombia has taken a similar approach.
- Ban eviction notices: While eviction orders have been suspended, landlords are still allowed to file eviction notices and are “entitled to collect compensation from a tenant for each day an eviction order is not enforced,” according to this recently posted provincial webpage COVID -19: information for Landlords. If allowed to continue, this measure will leave a threat of eviction over the heads of tenants; exacerbating a public health and financial crisis.
- No Rent Increases: I have heard from many tenants that Landlords are still issuing Guideline and even Above the Guideline Rent Increases (AGIs). There should be a pause on these increases during the course of the pandemic.
“Tenants are doing their best to fight this pandemic by staying at home, but are getting harassed or gouged with rent increases by their Landlord,” said Alejandra Ruiz Vargas, Toronto ACORN member. “Over 50% of ACORN members don’t know how they will pay on May 1st. We need a rent break and rent freeze now. It’s up to Doug Ford to step up now and help the families that are struggling.”
The province’s formal advice for tenants to “speak to your Landlord about whether (rent) can be postponed or if other payment arrangements can be agreed to,” has not proven effective. Far too many Landlords are still requiring full payment and issuing N4s. As an example, while this Toronto-based Youtube webinar for Landlords advises negotiation with tenants, there is also a recommendation to start the eviction process now on tenants that cannot afford to pay rent (scroll to 14:30).
“It’s no longer a question of whether or not tenants will pay their rent. During this public health emergency, many will simply not be able to”, said Matlow, “We are calling on Queen’s Park to come forward with a plan to support these tenants while ensuring Landlords have the financial ability to forgive their rent.”