Many government agencies are either closed or working on reduced hours since the novel coronavirus state of emergency was declared in Ontario. That includes the court system that looks after disputes between landlords and their tenants.
“Landlords always have a difficult time,” says Connie Galanis, “Ontario doesn’t work for landlords. It works for the tenants — however now, because of COVID-19, it is even more difficult for us.”
Galanis is a business owner and landlord, with multiple properties in the Kingston, Ont., area.
She says the pandemic has made it impossible to evict tenants who weren’t paying rent prior to COVID-19.
“We’ve got court cases of people living in our locations, damaging our properties and staying there for free,” says Galanis. “And that’s not even the point — that they are staying there for free — the government is giving them money to pay us rent.”
“The sheriff is not enforcing eviction orders,” says John Done, executive director of the Kingston Community Legal Clinic. He says laws provided to resolve disputes have largely been suspended for now.
“Particularly where the issue is non-payment of rent, which is the most common sort of application,” says Done, “these aren’t taking place because the Chief Justice of Ontario has ordered that evictions not be enforced by the sheriff.”
To make matters worse for some property owners, the Landlord and Tenant Board is not hearing cases that deal with rent arrears issues – even those filed before the pandemic began.
“Is the government going to do something for us afterwards?” wonders Galanis. “Because these people are going to stay there until the pandemic is done.
“And after the pandemic, it will take me at least two or three months to get into the courts. But then, trying to collect the money is a totally different story.”
“We never see the money. It’s gone, because you can’t get money from a rock.”
Housing market analysts say cash-strapped residential landlords could be among the first homeowners forced to offload real estate they can no longer afford.
Mortgage payment deferral options are not always available for investment properties, and the federal government’s planned rent relief program only applies to commercial landlords.