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Rent cheaters who exploit COVID-19 crisis should expect consequences, B.C. says

Click to play video 'Despite the impact of the coronavirus crisis, B.C. rent is still due on April 1st' Despite the impact of the coronavirus crisis, B.C. rent is still due on April 1st
About 500,000 British Columbians are renters, and rent is due April 1st. Both the BC and Federal Governments have promised financial assistance, that money won't be made available for a couple of weeks. So what are tenants and landlords to do? Richard Zussman reports. – Mar 31, 2020

As thousands of British Columbians struggle to pay their April rent, the B.C. government is warning there will be punishment for those cheating the system.

The province is working to ensure people who need money to pay rent receive support, but those who take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis and skip rent payments will face consequences, said NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, who chairs the province’s rental task force.

“Pay your rent if you can. If you can’t, be clear to your landlord about why and then apply for the supplement, for the federal support, then pay your rent when you can,” Chandra Herbert said.

“If you’re skipping out on rent just because you want to and you can pay, you will be evicted. It will just be afterwards.”

READ MORE: B.C. offers $500 a month for renters, bans evictions and rent increases

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B.C. has temporarily banned evictions except in extraordinary circumstances, and frozen rent increases.

The province is offering renters up to $500 a month for the next three months to ensure those affected by the pandemic can keep paying for their home.

The support will be distributed through BC Housing and is part of the province’s $5-billion stimulus package in response to the coronavirus outbreak. It includes $2.8 billion in support for individuals.

However, that program could not get up and running before rent cheques were due on Wednesday.

Click to play video 'B.C. government unveils help for renters and landlords' B.C. government unveils help for renters and landlords
B.C. government unveils help for renters and landlords – Mar 25, 2020

People should be able to apply for the rent supplement online “shortly,” Chandra Herbert said, stressing cooperation if tenants come up short this month.

“We hope folks lean to understanding rather than fighting over these issues,” he said.

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“It’s the only program of its kind in North America right now. I hope renters across North America get access to a program like this.”

Click to play video 'Growing calls to ban evictions' Growing calls to ban evictions
Growing calls to ban evictions – Mar 21, 2020

Renter Sarah Baumgart said April 1 will be the first time in her life she has missed a rent cheque.

Baumgart had to close her small business in East Vancouver, and she’s on disability. She said she hopes for additional funding soon from both the federal and provincial governments.

“I’m very stressed. I mean, this isn’t sustainable. This will carry on for months. I don’t know what they think we will do for the months to come,” Baumgart said.

“I feel helpless. I think a lot of us feel helpless. It’s awful having your income taken from you.”

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There is a growing movement from advocacy groups to scrap monthly housing payments altogether.

The B.C. Government Employees Union, the Vancouver Tenants Union and Leadnow have all urged the federal government to waive both mortgage and rent during the crisis.

Leadnow has helped lead the charge on a petition signed by more 840,000 Canadians, including renters and landlords, calling for the cancellation of rent payments across the country in an effort to help absorb economic shocks, as well as stop the spread of the virus.

“(It) would allow citizens to stay home from work without the added concern of losing their housing and limit the spread of the virus,” petition creator and Toronto renter Joe Rutherford said.