Across the country, April 1 will mark the first rent due date since the COVID-19 pandemic hit home in Canada.
As the pandemic ravages the economy, leaving more than a million Canadians suddenly unemployed, provincial governments have rolled out emergency measures for both tenants and landlords.
So far, all provinces have to some degree suspended evictions, which represent a health concern as Canadians are told to practice social distancing.
Many jurisdictions also offer financial help for utility bills or the option to postpone payments. However, the degree of emergency assistance for tenants varies significantly across jurisdictions.
Here’s a look at some of the major initiatives as of March 31:
B.C. is halting evictions for any reason except in extreme circumstances where there are safety concerns. The province is also freezing existing eviction orders.
Rent increases are also frozen.
Temporary Rental Supplement
The province has announced a new Temporary Rental Supplement program that will provide up to $500 a month. The funding, which will flow directly to landlords, is available to tenants who are struggling to pay rent because the pandemic has affected their income.
Applications will be available in mid-April on the B.C. Housing website, according to the government.
BC Emergency Benefit for Workers
Some tenants struggling to make their April rent may be able to tap the province’s Emergency Benefit for Workers, which will provide a one-time $1,000 payment to those who lost income because of COVID-19.
B.C. residents who receive Employment Insurance or Ottawa’s new Canada Emergency Response Benefit are eligible for the one-time payment.
Applications will open “soon,” the government has said.
So far, the province has suspended evictions for tenants who fail to pay rent and/or utility bills before May 1. Landlords can still seek evictions for reasons unrelated to the health emergency or if a tenant refuses to negotiate or comply with a payment plan. However, eviction applications will not be heard unless a landlord has made a “reasonable attempt” to work out a payment plan with a tenant.
The province has also put a halt on rent increases for as long as Alberta’s State of Public Health Emergency remains in effect. Landlords cannot apply or retroactively collect fees for late rent payments for the period until June 30.
The government is encouraging tenants and landlords to develop rent payment plans.
Emergency isolation support
Another possible source of funds for some tenants is Alberta’s emergency isolation support for workers who are sick with COVID-19, caring for someone with the virus or in self-isolation.
The province has pledged a one-time payment of $1,146. Income support is available only to those who have no other source of compensation.
As of March 26, the province is no longer accepting applications for non-urgent evictions.
Self-Isolation Support Program
Another possible source of support for some cash-strapped tenants is the province’s Self-Isolation Support Program, which will provide $450 per week for up to two weeks for workers who have to self-isolate and are not covered by federal jobless benefits or other supports.
The province has suspended non-urgent evictions hearings until May 31. However, landlords can charge fees for late payments as well as initiate evictions applications for missed payments during this period.
Landlords won’t be able to raise rent between April 1 and May 31.
Non-urgent evictions are suspended until May 31, while rent increases are suspended for April 1 – May 31.
The province has suspended eviction orders “until further notice” and postponed scheduled enforcement of current eviction orders. Still, landlords can collect compensation for every day that an eviction order is not enforced.
Ontarians who are experiencing a financial emergency because of COVID-19 can turn to the province’s Ontario Works program, which can help with the cost of housing and food, the government said.
Eviction hearings are on hold for as long as the province’s state of emergency is in force.
Temporary Aid for Workers Program
Some tenants could benefit from Quebec’s Temporary Aid for Workers Program, which will provide eligible residents $573 for two weeks of self-isolation. The benefit may also be extended to a maximum of 28 days for those who contract the virus.
The lump-sum payment is only available to residents who are not receiving any other form of compensation, including from private insurance or through other government programs.
The province has suspended evictions for tenants who fail to pay rent until May 31, 2020. This also applies to the enforcement of existing eviction orders issued for the same reason.
Workers Emergency Income Benefit
There’s good news for tenants in New Brunswick: the province is rolling out a one-time income benefit of $900 for residents who have lost their income due to the pandemic.
The benefit is meant to provide bridge financial aid until payments kick in from Ottawa’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and has similar eligibility requirements.
The province has banned evictions for tenants whose income has been affected by COVID-19 for three months starting on March 19.
Individuals and families on income assistance will receive an additional $50 starting on March 20. The top-up is automatic — there’s no need to apply.
Prince Edward Island
The province has a moratorium on evictions until June 30.
Temporary Rental Assistance Benefit
Prince Edward Island has created an emergency benefit for tenants who are facing financial hardships as a result of the COVID-19. The emergency aid will provide up to $250 per month per household for renters who do not qualify for existing rental assistance programs or social assistance.
As is the case in B.C., the payment will go directly to landlords.
More information on the benefit should become available in coming days on the government’s website.
Employee gift card program
Some PEI tenants will also be able to get some help with their grocery bill. The provincial government recently announced a program to offer a $100 Sobeys gift card to employees who have been laid off as a result of COVID-19 and are waiting to receive EI payments.
Employers must complete an application form for eligible employees and are in charge of distributing the gift cards.
On March 26, the province introduced legislation to prevent evictions for tenants who can’t pay rent because they have lost income resulting from COVID-19.