Rent is almost due and many people are experiencing uncertain financial times. At the same time, posts and petitions are circulating on social media encouraging tenants not to pay their rent on April 1st and an impending ‘rent strike‘ seems possible.
Premier Doug Ford announced last week that if the options lie between affording rent or food, people should not pay their rent. He continued to say that no one will be evicted for not paying their rent, which many tenants have taken as permission to avoid paying rent. This is obviously worrisome to rental homeowners, who must continue to pay their mortgage, property taxes, etc.
While some homeowners are successfully having their banks defer mortgage payments, this is merely a delay of payment, and interest continues to accrue and compound on the principal. Further, it appears that many banks are denying deferral for properties which are not the owner’s principal residence. So what is a landlord to do if his or her tenants refuse to pay rent?
In uncertain times such as these, it’s important to look to into the facts and know your rights and responsibilities. The only way to have a tenant legally evicted in Ontario is by order of the Landlord Tenant Board after a hearing. Currently the Landlord Tenant Board has suspended the issuance of eviction orders and the all hearing related to eviction applications due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark announced on March 27th, 2020 that landlords should be as flexible as possible. This appears to mean that landlords should accept delayed rent and/or potential payment plans. Nothing has been put in place to erase any unpaid rent debt or assist unpaid landlords.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath has called for the Ontario government to provide direct financial support to assist households in affording rent, and to make it illegal to evict a tenant during the public health crisis.
There is no mechanism currently in place to permit people to live rent-free. The inability of a landlord to evict comes from the fact that Tribunals Ontario is not currently holding eviction hearings.
Not paying rent is not a good option for tenants. Unless the government enacts new legislation, non -payment of rent is simply postponing eviction once the Board resumes operations. Rent is still owed and non-payment will result in eventual eviction unless payments are caught up.
In the current climate, it is best for landlords to work with tenants and be as flexible as possible with payment plans or accepting delayed rent. For landlords dealing with tenants who refuse payment, we advise beginning the eviction process as soon as possible to avoid being late in the queue once the Board resumes operations.
While all front-line counter services at the Landlord Tenant Board are closed, the most common types of application can still be filed online, including an Application to Evict a Tenant for Non-payment of Rent. However, it is unknown when hearings will resume or be scheduled.
If you have landlord-tenant questions or need assistance with paperwork or representation at the Tribunal, Barriston can help. Give us a call or visit our website to send an electronic inquiry: https://www.barristonlaw.com/contact/