Coronavirus: No surge in evictions after moratorium lifts in Saskatchewan

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WATCH: Between August 4 and 7, the Office of Residential Tenancies (ORT) approved 92 evictions due to rent arrears – Aug 14, 2020

It’s been over a week since renters were once again exposed to the threat of eviction in Saskatchewan, after a moratorium was placed on non-urgent evictions in March amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Between August 4 and 7, the Office of Residential Tenancies (ORT) approved 92 evictions due to rent arrears; 24 had been put on hold before the moratorium was put in place.

“The majority of these applications are from unpaid rent … between April and July,” wrote communications director Marieka Andrew in an email to Global News.

Read more: Saskatchewan NDP calls for rental eviction moratorium to be extended

Last August, the ORT processed 293 non-urgent eviction applications.

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This year, while some tenants aren’t paying their rent, a majority in the province are keeping up, according to numbers from the Saskatchwan Landlord Association (SLA).

In April, around 20 per cent of renters in Saskatchewan hadn’t paid their rent at some point since the pandemic started. The number dropped to 10 per cent in May, and dropped to around 5 per cent in the summer.

Real Property Management acts as a third party between just under 400 properties, and upwards of 500 tenants in Saskatchewan.

Operations manager Carla Browne says her office has been “flexible”, working out deferred payment plans and keeping communication open between landlords and tenants.

“There’s no sense in saying you need to pay me on the first when I know you’re not going to have the money on the first,” she said.

Read more: ‘We’re still in crisis’: USask researchers to unpack affordable housing efficacy

Saskatchewan’s rental market is very active right now, according to Browne.

People are changing jobs, she said, with some newcomers migrating to the province while other are finding work outside of Saskatchewan.

It’s led to many needing to break their lease. Leniency from landlords is going a long way, she said.

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“Instead of taking the approach that you’re in a lease you still need to pay, we’re saying, ‘OK, let’s get it advertised and let’s see if we can find somebody else that might want that property and try to get you out of that lease and maybe into something you can afford,” she explained.

But Browne said there’s concern about how much longer people can afford rent.

As of July, unemployment in the province was at 8.8 per cent, according to Statistic Canada.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) ends September 26. People will transition to receive Employment Insurance, but concerns have been raised that some won’t qualify.

Read more: What we know so far about the CERB to EI transition

“When the CERB does end … we don’t know whether or not the economy will been have recovered enough that everyone is going to have a job,” Browne said.

Browne represents “small and medium” investors, meaning landlords with between one and twenty properties.

Her advice right now: whether you need more time to pay, or need to break your lease, communication with your landlord is key.

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

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