A moratorium on evicting tenants during the coronavirus pandemic that was put in place in March was lifted on Tuesday and hearings at the Quebec rental board resumed.
But housing rights advocates say thousands of tenants are now at risk of being forced from their homes right in the midst of a public health emergency. Philippe Girouard, a community organizer for the Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ), said some of his clients are desperate.
“Even today in my office I had someone that was in total despair because she was going to be evicted at the end of the month,” he told Global News outside his office. “We would have liked the moratorium to be extended for six months.”
He and other advocates say many tenants still struggle. Some don’t qualify for various government programs meant to help those who’ve lost income because of COVID-19. With the lack of affordable housing, they point out that the problem is even more acute.
“I’m really worried about the number of people who might be facing eviction and the fact that many people have been stretched to the limit with their budget,” said Margaret van Nooten of Project Genesis, who also advocates for tenants.
According to the Quebec rental board, as of July 15, there were more 6,000 applications provincewide for non-payment of rent.
Landlords, however, say they’re also struggling because rent payments haven’t been made since March, so they’re glad the hearings have resumed.
“Some of those tenants were riding the COVID-19 excuses and just saying because you can’t get me out I won’t pay the rent,” claimed Martin A. Messier, president of the Quebec Landlords’ Association.
He said it was especially difficult for owners of small residential properties who depend on the rent for income.
Housing rights groups say their main target is owners of large apartment complexes, where many of the tenants who fall through the cracks live.
“We haven’t seen any real substantial measures for people who are already stretched to the limit,” van Nooten said.
Messier acknowledges that there are people who simply can’t pay.
“Maybe there is a need for additional measures in some very specific cases, so that’s something that we can probably discuss,” he said.
Housing advocates say ultimately, more affordable housing is what’s really needed.
Rental board officials say they expect to clear the backlog of cases by the end of the month.