The provincial government announced on March 25, there would be a moratorium on evictions, a rental increase freeze, and up to $500 per month for four months rental supplement to tenants who can validate job loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. Landlords cannot issue eviction notices for non-payment of rent. LandlordBC CEO David Hutniak, left, and Surrey councillor Vera LeFranc at an Oct. 3 event at Surrey City Hall. (Photo submitted)

Landlords are panicked

Risk is real for April rent and greater challenges are foreshadowed for May

Continued from Page 3

The RAP will be paid directly to landlords and administered through BC Housing because of their expertise with other rental assistance programs, said Robinson. The application process is currently being developed.

“We can’t guarantee it (rental assistance) will be in tenants pockets by April 1. We are going to get the resources in peoples hands as soon as possible,” Horgan said.

“If your rent was set to increase on April 1, it is not going to now,” Robinson said about the freeze on rents and entry by a landlord for the period of the emergency.

LANDLORDS

The announcement has a number of Prince Rupert landlords concerned that the intent behind the provincial governments eviction moratorium announcement may be taken advantage of during the coronavirus crisis leaving residential housing landlords with bills to pay and months of rent owing to them once the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end.

On March 25, in an effort to keep B.C. tenants in their homes, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced various points of rental relief for tenants to make the trying times of diminished hours at work and job loss for many, more manageable. Among the initiatives was the announcement prohibiting landlords from issuing eviction notices, including for non payment of rent, and the cessation of enforcement on current eviction notices issued by the Residential Tenancy Branch.

“I don’t agree with the decision. Some banks are not deferring mortgages, yet us as landlords who depend on that money we are being ordered to not give eviction notices, so that could mean later on if things get out of hand with people that put us into a really bad situation,” Lisa Collins, 34 year property management veteran of a 64 unit building in Prince Rupert said.

The statements were echoed by David Hutniak CEO of LandlordBC who said, despite Prime Minister Trudeau’s statements a couple of weeks ago about banks offering mortgage deferrals to landlords, banks are not going to fall over themselves to work with landlords and mortgage holders.

“That’s just not happening. Banks are not compelled to do that…There is a misrepresentation of reality. Tenants are saying ‘Oh there’s all this free money for landlords. They are going to to be able to defer their mortgages.’ There is no guarantee that’s going to happen. The bank may say no. There are strings attached. It’s not free money.”

Hutniak said the press conference announcement was a frustrating exercise to watch. While he thinks the rent supplement of up to $500 is good, he had hoped it would be more.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, there are huge gaps. We had hoped to have seen that $500 was something much more robust,” Hutniak said.

“Moratorium on evictions is hugely problematic for non-payment of rent, particularly since there wasn’t a strong message that you’ve got to pay your rent from the Premier, and then this mortgage deferral thing…It’s not what we are seeing on the ground. It’s not happening. It has huge costs attached.”

The sector is hugely worried, with small landlords being panicked and rightly so, Hutniak said.

“The small guys, who represent the vast majority, are going to be in serious, serious trouble because they need those payments. They are mortgaged and leveraged to the hilt.”

“With the moratorium the risk is real for April rent for a meaningful amount of renters to not pay their rent. It probably increases substantially for May unless the province gets a handle on it,”Hutniak said.

“Landlords can not issue notices. No new notices, unless in exceptional circumstances like criminal activity or assault,” Paul Legace, tenant advocate at the Prince Rupert Unemployed Action Centre (PRUAC) said.

“This shouldn’t be a license for tenants not to pay rent. Landlords have rights too,” Legace, “As a tenant do not exploit the COVID-19 so it is unfair to your landlord. It’s not right.”

“Anybody who can pay their rent, needs to pay their rent,” Legace said.

“Anybody who is behind with rent right now is a separate issue from the COVID-19,” Legace said. “Lets be clear, don’t lump it in with the Covid issues.”

“It will be played out in the coming days in tenancy hearings when money is asked for. . I think arbitrators will make the [distinction] of non-payment for legitimate reasons versus non-legitimate reasons,” Legace said.

Collins said it’s a good thing the temporary rental supplement of up to $500 per month is going directly to the landlord.

“It’s a good thing, so someone doesn’t get it and party all night then blow it … At least there is a balance coming in on those high arrears situations. It’s good that it’s going into the landlords hands.”


 
K-J Millar | Journalist 
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