MEMBER UPDATE: March 31, 4:00PM
Rent’s Due: Now What?
For many Ontarians, rent is due on Wednesday, but with so many people out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, actually paying seems impossible. Many people are on the hook to pay rent on the first of the month with little to no means to do it.
What happens if tenants can't afford rent?
A court order granted on March 19, 2020 suspended the enforcement of eviction orders across Ontario, including for non-payment of rent. Moreover, the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) will not issue any new eviction orders until further notice, all eviction-related hearings have been suspended and all scheduled evictions have been postponed. While Premier Ford’s statement regarding non-payment of rent for tenants in financial crisis has raised concern among community housing providers and landlords, the Province is encouraging “landlords and tenants to work together during this difficult time to establish fair arrangements to keep tenants in their homes."
As such, proper communication between landlord and tenant is important around rent.
Many tenants may face reduced hours or layoffs during this time. Community housing providers are encouraged to act with compassion when responding to these circumstances:
- Be proactive and communicate with tenants through all available channels on how tenants can report changes to their income (e.g. by phone, email or in writing). Don’t wait to send out annual review packages.
- Reduce the rent for RGI tenants affected by reduced hours or layoffs on the 1st day of the month following the change in income (best practice is the receipt of last pay). NOTE: Service Managers may provide specific instructions around how to address RGI calculations in the current situation, so make sure to check with them for the most up-to-date information.
- Ask your Service Manager for direction on how to approach RGI recalculations if your organization does not have the capacity to perform this work under your current operational protocol (e.g. staff working remotely without access to tools.) Update your organization’s business continuity plan to reflect these priorities.
- Be reasonable and flexible with follow up efforts regarding verification documents such as Records of Employment (ROE) and letters from employers. Check with your Service Manager to confirm if emails from employers are acceptable.
- If tenants are not able to pay their rent in full, ask them to pay what they can towards their rent and agree to a payment plan.
- Refer tenants to available federal and provincial supports, including Employment Insurance, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (application launching in early April), Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program (see below for more information).
- Consider waiving non-sufficient funds (NSF) fees on cheques during the pandemic.
- Consider halting rent increases on market rate tenants. Check with your Service Manager to see if you can offer RGI subsidies to market residents if you are under your RGI targets in order to meet Service Level Standards.
- In light of the anticipated number of rent payment issues, consider redeploying staff capacity that would be allocated to the issuance of eviction notices and LTB hearings to support screening tenant calls related to rent payments and to develop strategies to extend compassion to tenants in financial need.
- Given the federal government has been flooded with Employment Insurance (EI) applications and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will not be available until mid-April at the earliest, in addition to municipalities likely receiving large volumes of applications for Ontario Works (OW), housing providers should expect significant delays in tenants accessing these funding streams.
- ONPHA will continue to update our members on information on application processes and eligibility criteria for income supports and benefits available to tenants in the days ahead.
What assistance is available for renters?
- The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will provide $2,000/month for 4 months for workers that have lost their jobs or are unable to work due to COVID-19, available from March 15 until October 3, 2020. Applications will be available in early April, with funding expected to begin flowing within ten days.
- An additional $300/child through the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) for 2019-20 will be delivered as part of the scheduled CCB payment in May (those already receiving the CCB do not need to re-apply)
- One-time top-up payment through the Goods and Services Tax (GST) credit for low- and modest-income individuals and families will give close to $400 for individuals and $600 for couples. No application necessary – if you are eligible, you will receive the credit automatically.
- 75% wage subsidy for businesses and charities will help keep and return workers to the payroll. Further information to be determined.
- The Province is suspending time-of-use electricity rates, holding electricity prices to off-peak rates for 45 days, which is expected to reduce rates by over 50 per cent. This discount will be applied automatically to electricity bills without the need for customers to fill out an application form.
- The Province is investing $52 million to expand access to Emergency Assistance for Ontarians financially impacted by COVID-19. Applications are available through Ontario Works.
- Current social assistance recipients receiving benefits through Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program will be able to access discretionary benefits.
- A one-time payment of $200/child up to 12 years of age ($250 for children with disabilities) to help families in need of childcare. Application process to be determined.
- A proposal to double the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payment for low-income seniors for six-months. Further information to be determined.
Still have questions about rent, support for tenants and financial aid to keep your business and operations running? Visit ONPHA’s FAQ page or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.