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Coronavirus: B.C. businesses won’t be evicted when landlords don’t apply for federal rent help

A closed sign on a Vernon, B.C. business during the coronavirus pandemic.
A closed sign on a Vernon, B.C. business during the coronavirus pandemic. Megan Turcato / Global News

The B.C. government will protect commercial tenants from being evicted due to nonpayment of rent under the COVID-19 pandemic when the landlord hasn’t applied for the federal rent supplement.

Finance Minister Carole James announced on Monday the move is designed to stop landlords from using a lack of federal support as an excuse to evict business tenants.

READ MORE: Commercial rent relief plan gave businesses hope, but landlords reluctant to participate

“We heard from small businesses that they need us to help fill a gap that has left some of them unable to get the support they need,” James said in a release.

“Preventing landlords who are eligible for (the federal program) from evicting tenants can encourage landlords to apply for the program and give some temporary relief to businesses who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.”

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Work from home impacting how companies do future business
Work from home impacting how companies do future business

The federal benefit, for which registration kicked off last week, offers unsecured, forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners to reduce the rent owed by their impacted small business tenants. In return, property owners must offer at least a 75-per-cent cut in rent for April, May and June.

James said there is little data so far on how many people have applied for the program. Tenants are not eligible.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Rent relief is coming for commercial landlords, but some may not apply

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“It’s been an issue raised by members on the premier’s economic tax force. We have heard it from small businesses. We have heard there are landlords that don’t want to take the time to apply,” James said.

READ MORE: As B.C. businesses reopen, some charge COVID-19 fees to cover costs

James was again asked about a lack of pandemic top-up pay for frontline workers such as those who work in grocery stores and public transit.

She said the program simply couldn’t cover everyone, and hoped that the private sector would raise wages for those staffers.