Rent relief must be a priority: Ontario Federation of Labour

Apr 14 2020, 7:50 am

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) is asking Premier Doug Ford to implement legislation ensuring that rent relief can occur for residential and small business tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to OFL, before April 1, Ford assured tenants that if they could not pay their rent, they did not have to. However, the province has not implemented legislation to protect tenants during this time who cannot pay rent.

In order to better protect tenants, the OFL is calling on the provincial government to immediately subsidize household rent, with a sum of up to $2,500 per home, per month for up to four months.

They also want a six-month freeze on rent increases, so that workers and their families have protection during the financial recovery, after the pandemic.

“With Ontario’s legislature set to return for a sitting today, the Ford government should be legislating rent relief,” Patty Coates, OFL president, said in a statement. “We are now almost halfway through April, and renters still have no guarantees about how the province will handle the financial strain that rent payments pose to tenants, many of whom have lost significant income due to the COVID-19 crisis.”

The Better Way Alliance is also calling for rent abatements for tenants to cover commercial rent costs, retroactive to April 1, 2020, and lasting as long as public health officials’ orders require self-isolation and physical distancing.

The Alliance says it is also considering the time needed for businesses to recover from closures and consumer spending to return to pre-crisis levels.

Small business owners are also calling for a freeze on commercial rent evictions until the economy recovers from the pandemic.

“Making rent relief a reality requires government intervention. The banks should be mandated to pause mortgages for residential and commercial borrowers, and in turn, that relief should be passed on to tenants,” Coates said.

“Further delays in providing this needed support to workers, their families and small businesses will be detrimental to employment stability and economic recovery.”

On March 19, Ford temporarily suspended evictions for residents in Ontario.

Meanwhile across the country, on March 25, BC Premier John Horgan announced a ban on evictions right across the province.

This means that a landlord may not issue a new notice to end tenancy for any reason. However, “in exceptional cases where it may be needed to protect health and safety or to prevent undue damage to the property, landlords will be able to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for a hearing,” the province said.