B.C. Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson announced rental relief for tenants and landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic on March 25 (B.C. government)

Rent freeze, no evictions and money to tenants

The provincial government announced rental relief efforts during COVID-19 emergency

A moratorium on evictions, a freeze on rent increases and a prohibition of entry by landlords into rental units, were all declared on March 25 by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Also announced was a $500 per month temporary rental supplement to assist tenants who are facing financial difficulty during the time of the coronavirus pandemic.

The government has to make sure people can keep their homes, Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing said at a press conference making public the government’s efforts to assist both landlords and tenants in British Columbia.

“A rental assistance program (RAP) will be available to low and moderate individuals who have experienced a significant reduction in their income because of COVID-19,”Robinson said.

READ MORE: Hundreds of Prince Rupert renters evicted

The temporary rental supplement, of up to $500, for the next four months, will be available to those who can validate loss of income, and is designed to help those people who have seen a drop off in their hours or in fact have had a lay off notice come their way, said John Horgan, Premier of British Columbia.

With more than 500,000 rental units in British Columbia, Horgan said rent cheques are critical to landlords.

“If you can pay your rent, you should pay your rent,” Horgan said during the live streamed conference.

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.

READ MORE: Landlord’s eviction turn around

“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.“Tenants have to be able to to protect themselves and others from the virus. Keeping people out of their homes is mandatory for the distance we all need so that we can be safe from Covid-19.”

The enforcement of all eviction notices issued by the Residential Tenancy Branch has been halted with the exception of extreme cases where there is a threat or safety concerns. Landlords may not issue a new notice to end tenancy for any reason. Landlords are also to restrict access numbers to common areas such as laundry rooms, games rooms, gyms and social areas.

“As a government we are here for tenants as well as landlords,” Robinson said.

K-J Millar | Journalist 
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