The tenants wanted rent relief for April. Some have understood, others have not

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Posters calling for rent protests are photographed at the corner of King St. West and Dunn Ave. in Parkdale, March 24, 2020.

Fred Lum / The Globe and Mail

Millions of Canadians have had to pay their first rent on Wednesday since COVID-19 caused a shock wave in the economy, with some tenants taking a break from delays or discounts, while others have not. not been lenient on the part of the owners.

For weeks, April 1 has appeared as a point of financial pressure for tenants across the country. More than two million Canadians applied for unemployment benefits in the last half of March due to business closures in the midst of a pandemic, while some forms of financial assistance have yet to start paying. affected workers. Before Wednesday, many tenants had to suspend payments or request deferrals.

Governments have implored landlords to make arrangements to keep tenants housed during the pandemic, and each province has decided to ban some or all forms of eviction. The primary owners have told The Globe and Mail that they are working with tenants on a case-by-case basis.

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As April rents became due, owners and tenants reported a mix of experiences.

Jeanne-Marie Robillard and her husband rent a triplex in Toronto. After seeing four of their five tenants lose their jobs, Ms. Robillard offered them a 50% discount for April. “We care very much about our tenants,” she said. “It was just the right thing to do. “

On Facebook groups, several tenants posted letters from owners who did not budge at their requests, asking for full payment.

Jaylen Mitchell said he got no sympathy from his owner in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighborhood. Mr. Mitchell is the tenant of the house, which he shares with two roommates, both of whom have been laid off. He tried to offer a solution to his landlord, that he would pay a third of the rent and that she could keep the security deposit he had originally provided when he moved in to cover at least the current month, with more efforts to come. His response, said Mr. Mitchell, was: “Please charge the rent by April 6.”

In Prince Edward Island, where the rental rental vacancy rate is lowest by province, “it was a mixed bag,” said Aimee Power of PEI Fight for Affordable Housing, an advocacy group. Rights.

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“We’ve heard that there are quite a few owners who have reached out and offered support, or even just more time [to pay rent] if necessary. But we’ve certainly heard of owners of nightmares, “too,” said Ms. Power.

The provinces have unveiled various policies to relieve tenants. All provinces have implemented some form of eviction ban, while British Columbia has gone a step further by including a rent assistance program that provides eligible households with up to $ 500 a month. Prince Edward Island launched a similar benefit program, with monthly payments capped at $ 250 per household, which, according to Ms. Power, was “insulting to the limit”.

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Despite eviction bans, owners are positioning themselves for potential evictions on the road. Several small landlords in Ontario have indicated that, in cases where tenants have not paid the rent in full, they will send them N4 notices – notice of early termination of tenancy for non-payment of rent – even in cases where partial payments or deferrals have been agreed. If full payment is not received within 14 days, a landlord can then file a tenant eviction request (Form L1) with the Province’s Landlord and Tenant Board.

Although the CLI has suspended most eviction hearings, it has suffered from delays of several months in trying cases, and these delays are expected to lengthen considerably as the pandemic continues.

“I advise the owners to say to the tenant: ‘If you do not pay your full rent – which is fine if we talk about it – but I will serve an N4 and I will deposit an L1 because I have to enter the queue ‘wait’ at the CLI, said Harry Fine, paralegal and former CLI arbitrator.

Several large landlords have told The Globe that it is too early to assess the number of tenants who commit to payment plans or withhold payments.

“We probably won’t know until next week,” said Johann Rodrigues, a Raymond James analyst who covers real estate investment trusts, including several large residential owners.

Mark Kenney, President and CEO of Canadian Apartment Properties Real Estate Investment Trust, said he did not expect non-payment to be a major factor in his buildings.

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“I think it’s a small number of people who make noise,” he said.

Some tenants are expected to get relief in the coming weeks as new and established government programs begin to pay money to affected workers.

Gerry Lee, a 40-year-old retail worker laid off in Barrie, Ontario, recently applied for EI but is awaiting payment. In the meantime, her parents cover her rent.

“Once I start receiving benefits, I hope everything will be fine,” he said.

Christopher Mio and Meghan Hoople were unemployed and wanted to help after the isolation of COVID-19 in Toronto. After traveling around their neighborhood with a free offer, they received a surge of support and requests from people in need.

With files from Frances Bula in Vancouver

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