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Rent Payment and COVID-19.

Posted on 31 March, 2020 at 20:15

The COVID-19 Pandemic has proven to be a challenging time for all Ontarians. It has caused unprecedented disruption to people’s personal lives, and unprecedented economic disruption. As a part of this, many are out of work and unsure where their next paycheque is going to come from, and how they will feed their family.


In response to the challenges faced by families, the Government of Ontario has provided messages which can be misleading. Ontarians have been encouraged not to pay their rent, and that tenants will not be evicted because of COVID-19 related non-payment of rent. In this post I would like to clarify things.


The obligation to pay rent in Ontario is based on a private contract between a Landlord and a Tenant. This obligation has not been suspended in any way as a result of COVID-19. Tenants will still ultimately be responsible to pay the rent during months in which they are impacted by COVID-19. To accomplish the objective of suspending rent for a month would require a law to be passed by the Ontario Legislature, which has not been done at this point. It is very important that tenants are aware that the Government has not provided them with free rent (which seems to have been done in other countries but I cannot confirm that).


There are however two things which the Government did do. In the first part, the Landlord and Tenant Board is not hearing matters and evicting people. Second, the Sheriff is not enforcing eviction orders where they are made. Ontarians are being urged to stay home as much as possible, as searching for a new place is not advisable in a public health emergency. This suspension is only temporary. As a result, there is not an immediate threat of eviction, but there is a possibility down the line if rent is not brought up to day. Evictions will eventually resume, including for those months covered by this pandemic.


If you can pay your rent now, I strongly recommend payment. If that is not possible, then do not pay it. Keeping your family safe and putting food on the table is the most important thing right now. Be aware though, that barring any unforeseen changes in the law, that you will eventually need to pay any outstanding rent. If it does come to an eviction application and hearing at the Board, section 83 relief may be granted based on any lost earnings due to COVID-19.


From a human standpoint, it makes sense for both Landlord and Tenant to give some grace in this situation. The economic dislocation being experienced is not the fault of either side, and places an extraordinary burden on families. Many tenants are unable to pay their rent because they are suddenly out of work, a situation also faced by some Landlords. If a payment plan to get things up to date once this crisis is over or to wait for payment until government assistance arrives can be made, this is far preferable to an eviction based on this crisis. Please accept the best wishes on keeping safe and healthy during this horrible crisis.


*This article does not constitute legal advice, and does not create a paralegal-client relationship.  Should you require advice about a specific matter, please contact our office.*

 

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