Toronto councillor calls for immediate rent relief action plan

Apr 1 2020, 1:12 pm

With rent due on Wednesday, a Toronto City Councillor is calling for an immediate rent relief plan for small businesses and commercial landlords amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 31, the Trinity-St.Paul councillor Josh Matlow — who contracted coronavirus on March 9 — wrote a letter to Singh Sarkaria Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade urging for an immediate with plan rent due April 1.

“While the health and safety of our residents are of course the top priority, we must also work to ensure that the drivers of our local economy are in a position to contribute when we make it to the other side of the COVID -19 crisis,” Matlow said.

The councillor is calling for small business owners to have direct support to pay their rent during the course of the pandemic.

Also, rent deferrals only “delay financial issues and add to the mounting debt that many small business owners are accruing during this crisis,” he said.

Matlow urged that rent support from the government for small businesses will help ensure that the main streets return once the pandemic is over.

In a separate release, the councillor acknowledges the importance of Premier Doug Ford freezing eviction orders, but renters and landlords need more clarity from the province on what to expect with rent and mortgage payments.

Matlow proposed two notions, the first being rent forgiveness. This means there will be offset payments for landlords to forgive rent for tenants who now qualify for federal income supports.

“Deferrals could lead to mass evictions and financial ruin when the COVID – 19 crisis is over. The provincial government in British Colombia has taken a similar approach.”

The second is to ban eviction notices.

While eviction orders have been suspended, landlords are still allowed to file eviction notices and are “entitled to collect compensation from a tenant for each day an eviction order is not enforced,” according to a recently posted provincial webpage COVID -19: information for landlords.

“If allowed to continue, this measure will leave a threat of eviction over the heads of tenants; exacerbating a public health and financial crisis,” Matlow said.

Tenant advocacy group, ACORN, has started a petition demanding a rent freeze, saying thousands of people do not have the money to pay for rent.

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.