We are in uncertain times amid the COVID-19 virus that is impacting communities around the world. To help in these uncertain times the HDAA will be working on consolidating up to date resources and relevant news to the rental housing sector. We are also still maintaining regular business hours, remotely of course, to be available to our members for any questions or concerns.

City of Hamilton – Housing Call Out

The City of Hamilton needs your help. The City is looking for private market rental units to fill an immediate need: to house individuals and families currently in shelter and/or hotels who could move in with minimal supports. For some people, they will be able to match them up with the Canada Ontario Housing Benefit that took effect on April 1. They are asking landlords who have a vacant unit that is move-in ready to work with the City to create long term tenancies with financial support.

If you have any available units for rent and/or would like additional information, please contact Housing Services at Housing@Hamilton.ca.

To read the full letter from Paul Johnson, General Manager of Healthy and Safe Communities with the City of Hamilton, you can find it here.

June 8th Update:

The City of Hamilton has created a COVID-19 multi-unit dwelling resource to assist landlords and tenants. You may find it here.

Some public health unit regions allowed to move into Stage 2; limit on social gatherings increased from five to 10 people: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/06/ontario-permits-more-businesses-and-services-to-reopen-in-the-coming-days.html

Ontario Proposing Temporary Ban on Commercial Evictions: https://news.ontario.ca/mma/en/2020/06/ontario-proposing-temporary-ban-on-commercial-evictions.html

June 2nd Update:

Ontario Extends Declaration of Emergency until June 30: https://www.news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/06/ontario-extends-declaration-of-emergency-until-june-30.html

May 25th Update:

Applications for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) are now open: https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/finance-and-investing/covid19-cecra-small-business?guide=How%20do%20I%20apply%20for%20the%20CECRA%20for%20small%20businesses%20program?

May 14th Update:

Ontario Announces Additional Workplaces that Can Reopen: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/05/ontario-announces-additional-workplaces-that-can-reopen.html?utm_source=ondemand&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=p

May 12th Update:

Declaration of Emergency Extended While Ontario Gradually Reopens the Economy: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/05/declaration-of-emergency-extended-while-ontario-gradually-reopens-the-economy.html

May 6th Update:

Ontario Further Eases Restrictions on Retail Stores and Essential Construction During COVID-19: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/05/ontario-further-eases-restrictions-on-retail-stores-and-essential-construction-during-covid-19.html

May 5th Update:

Ontario releases Health and Safety Association Guidance Documents for Workplaces During the COVID-19 Outbreak: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/04/health-and-safety-association-guidance-documents-for-workplaces-during-the-covid-19-outbreak.html

Ontario allows certain business to reopen, including businesses involved in lawn care and landscaping and those involved in various construction projects: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/05/certain-businesses-allowed-to-reopen-under-strict-safety-guidelines.html

April 27th Update:

Ontario Provides Urgent Relief for Small Businesses and Landlords: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/04/ontario-provides-urgent-relief-for-small-businesses-and-landlords.html

Ontario Unveils Guiding Principles to Reopen the Province: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/04/ontario-unveils-guiding-principles-to-reopen-the-province.html

Reopening Ontario after COVID-19 Framework: https://www.ontario.ca/page/reopening-ontario-after-covid-19?_ga=2.261722957.1199684589.1587951597-2106695739.1575302611

April 20th Update:

Prime Minister announces expanded access to Canada Emergency Response Benefit and support for essential workers: https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/news-releases/2020/04/15/prime-minister-announces-expanded-access-canada-emergency-response

Interactive: Which benefits am I eligible for during the COVID-19 pandemic?: https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/interactive-which-benefits-am-i-eligible-for-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-1.4901012

Prime Minister announces additional support for small businesses; Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses: https://pm.gc.ca/en/news/news-releases/2020/04/16/prime-minister-announces-additional-support-small-businesses

April 8th Update:

The LTB has created an Urgent Hearing Motion Form and Instructions for Urgent Motion Form to assist landlords and tenants if an urgent hearing is required (for example, in exceptional and extremely urgent circumstances such as a threat to life or safety, or a serious illegal act). Care should be taken in determining whether to file for an Urgent Hearing as the legal test and the facts to support an Urgent Motion are high. The Forms can be found on the LTB website and are named “Request for Urgent Hearing” and “Instructions”: http://www.sjto.gov.on.ca/ltb/forms/

April 3rd Update:

Province of Ontario – List of businesses classified as essential reduced and ordered to close on April 6th: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/04/ontario-extends-business-closures-to-stop-the-spread-of-covid-19.html

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit program will begin taking applications on April 6th, those wishing to apply can find information here: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html


Canada’s Updated COVID-19 Economic Response Plan: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html

Tribunals Ontario Fee Increases Deferred to July 1, 2020: http://www.sjto.gov.on.ca/en/latest-news/#ltb


Cohen Highley – COVID-19: Tenant Retention In A Recession? Some Options http://cohenhighley.com/articles/covid-19-tenant-retention-in-a-recession-some-options/


The City of Hamilton – COVID-19: A message to tenants, landlords and homeowners: https://www.hamilton.ca/alert/99336


City of Toronto extending shutdown to May 25: https://www.thespec.com/news/hamilton-region/2020/03/31/covid-19-city-extends-pandemic-shutdown-restrictions-to-may-25.html

March 31st Update:

Financial Health of Your Operation

For the past several days, Landlords have properly been focused on issues of health and safety for building residents, employees, contractors and visitors. With April 1 quickly approaching, and in light of the overwhelming social and financial disruption as a consequence of COVID-19, landlords can expect rent defaults to occur. Most of those defaults will be genuinely tied to tenants’ loss of income due lay off, loss of business, loss of employment, or self-isolation. In such cases the vast majority of landlords recognize that threats of eviction and demands for payment are a waste of time and an unnecessary burden on residents who are already in crisis mode.

There are other tenants who will seek to exploit the COVID-19 crisis and use it as an opportunity to avoid paying rent altogether. Already on social media we are seeing trolls encouraging tenants to withhold rent and assuring them that there will be no adverse consequences for doing so. In reality there will be adverse consequences, but the organizers of such initiatives could care less about tenants, they have a much bigger social agenda. If heat, hydro, water, cleaning services, building services (pest control, maintenance and repair) and security are all to be provided to tenants, it is critical that rent is paid.

The strategy to address financial hardship being deployed by some institutional lenders, by municipal governments, by provincial and federal governments, and some other creditors is to defer deadlines for payments where defaults are tied to COVID-19. Many landlords plan to act consistently with other major creditors in addressing rent defaults by deferring collection of some or all of the rent due where the default is COVID-related.

Implementation of a rent deferral strategy should be relatively easy to administer. Instead of automatically issuing N4s (Notices of Termination) where rent is unpaid, landlords may issue ‘friendly reminders’ with content that lets tenants know that if the default is COVID-related, the tenant may contact the landlord to discuss the situation and make repayment arrangements. Most tenants who are acting in good faith will reach back out to the landlord to discuss same. Note the contact information provided should be by telephone, email or, if necessary, in person; however, if staff are to meet in person with a tenant then a recommended series of questions should be asked before the person is permitted into the office and while in the office, “social distancing” should be observed. A list of cautionary questions is available at this link: Cautionary Questions

Any discussion with defaulting residents should include providing them with information about available governmental financial assistance programs and, if necessary, assisting them to determine eligibility and access to such programs. The repayment agreement can be structured based on individual circumstances and this is where the skill and resourcefulness of you and your staff will come into play. In our view it is critical that the tenant have assurance in the security of maintaining their housing through the immediate and longer term crisis, while also have a clear understanding that rent must be paid. Once the terms of a repayment agreement are scoped out, they should be put in writing. A template for a sample rent arrears repayment agreement is available at the following link: Rental Arrears Repayment Agreement

You or your staff will often be able to determine whether a COVID-related default is genuine, either because the tenant fails to respond to the friendly reminder regardless of follow up, or the tenant is a chronic defaulter, or the tenant makes it clear that they will not cooperate and just refuse to pay anything. In those cases an N4 should issue if only to give you leverage to “stop the bleeding” once Landlord and Tenant Board proceedings are back up and running.

Best of luck to all of you in navigating these difficult times. As always, we are here to help if you need us.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Joe Hoffer at hoffer@cohenhighley.com or 519-672-9330.

COVID-19 “CERB” Program May Resolve “Rent Repayment” Issues

Yesterday, the federal government introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) which is intended to quickly direct income support payments to Canadians whose income has been lost or severely reduced because of COVID-19. The government claims that Canadians who qualify for the program can now expect payments of up to $2000.00 within weeks and the payments should continue for four months. This means that many of the rent defaults landlords may experience on their April rent rolls could be resolved before the end of April and could stay resolved for at least four months.

We have previously recommended that where tenants default on their April rents and claim the default is due to loss of income and COVID-related, landlords should reach out to them and work with them to come up with a repayment plan. Landlords are entitled to see some verification from tenants to support the claim of loss of income and its connection to COVID-19. If the landlord is satisfied with that verification, then there is a good chance that the CERB program will supply funds to meet the tenant’s housing needs and avoid ongoing rent defaults. Landlords should familiarize themselves with the CERB program, and with other government assistance programs available to tenants, and work with eligible tenants to incorporate the funds sourced from the programs into tenant repayment agreements.

The application process is scheduled to open in early April, with individual income support payments amounting to about $2,000 a month expected to flow about 10 days later. The benefits will be available for four months. The money is intended to support tenants who have lost their jobs, became ill or are under quarantine and/or have to stay home because of school closures. A government news release says the “simpler and more accessible” program will cover Canadians who lost their jobs, got sick, are under quarantine or have to stay home because of school closures. In addition, workers, contract workers and self-employed people who don’t qualify for employment insurance (EI) will also qualify. So if these are reasons given by the tenant for the rent default, there is a prospect that they will qualify for CERB payments.

Where the person does qualify for EI, a longer wait for funds is likely. The government news release states: “Given this situation, all Canadians who have ceased working due to COVID-19, whether they are EI-eligible or not, would be able to receive the CERB to ensure they have timely access to the income support they need”. Canadians already receiving employment insurance (EI) regular benefits and sickness benefits will, as of today, continue to receive those benefits and should not apply to the CERB.

The more familiarity landlords have with access and eligibility for the program the better positioned you will be to assure anxious tenants their housing is secure while working with them to develop an effective rent arrears repayment agreement. It appears that the tenant applying for CERB will get the “benefit of the doubt” if there is some uncertainty about eligibility and the government asserts that if someone receives an income support payment for which they did not qualify, they will have to repay that amount as soon as they can. Repayment options are to be determined by the government but no interest will be charged on the outstanding sums. The online portal to apply for CERB will be available in early April, and people can expect payments within 10 days. CERB payments will be issued every four weeks, and will be available from March 15, 2020 to Oct. 3, 2020.

The bottom line for landlords is that the CERB program offers a lifeline to tenants who cannot meet their rental obligations. It also offers relief for landlords from the loss of rental revenue needed to operate their buildings in very difficult and demanding circumstances. It is open to landlords who enter into repayment agreements to ask, not only for verification of the reason for the loss of income, but also for verification that an application for CERB or other benefits has been made. The availability of the CERB is a preferred option to entering into LMR agreements (enforcement of repayment of LMR is problematic) or working out long term repayment plans. The CERB payments to individuals are substantial and continuous for at least 4 months.

If the tenant refuses to cooperate with the process or is just not paying rent with the expectation the landlord has no remedy, we highly recommend that you issue the N4 and follow up with an eviction application; otherwise you will have no leverage to recover a judgment or repayment of arrears.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Joe Hoffer at hoffer@cohenhighley.com or 519-672-9330.

COVID-19 LANDLORD SURVIVAL TIPS

The Quinte Region Landlords Association has compiled a helpful guide with tips, suggestions and ideas landlords can consider when handling the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Please note that this does not constitute health or legal advice and the QRLA and the HDAA assume no responsibility or liability for any losses resulting from following any of the suggestions. As the situation is changing rapidly, this document may go out of date quickly. Landlords are encouraged to monitor announcements from public health officials for the latest advice and updates on COVID-19 and obtain legal advice where needed. You may access the document here.

Informational Resources

Cohen Highley has been providing regular articles with suggestions and advice on the COVID-19 virus which can be accessed on their website here: 
http://cohenhighley.com/news-and-articles/articles/rent-control-bulletins/

Rentcheck is still open to serve all your Applicant inquiries. They have developed a Rentcheck Business Continuity Plan which contains important information to help you access any current or future searches with minimal delay.


CMHC has compiled some helpful resources for housing providers:
https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/media-newsroom/coronavirus-update


CFAA is providing regular updates and suggestions on how to best support tenants and what to do as April 1st approaches:
https://cfaa-fcapi.org/covid-19-updates-dealing-with-tenants-rents/
https://cfaa-fcapi.org/cmhc-and-tenant-advocates-say-tenants-should-pay-their-rents-if-they-can/


FRPO has compiled resources and drafted helpful letters for housing providers:
https://www.frpo.org/frpo-advocacy/covid19resources


The Province of Ontario’s and Government of Canada’s websites provide the most recent and up to date information on the COVID-19 virus and resources available:
https://www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus
https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html

You may also find the most recent news releases from the Province of Ontario here:
https://news.ontario.ca/en/search/?keywords=covid-19


You can also find a helpful guide on that Government of Canada’s website on the economic response plan and available resources:
https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/03/canadas-covid-19-economic-response-plan-support-for-canadians-and-businesses.html


The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has put together a pandemic guide for businesses and other helpful resources:
http://www.chamber.ca/resources/pandemic-preparedness/


Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and the City of Hamilton websites provide information and resources available within Hamilton:
https://www.hamiltonchamber.ca/covid19/
https://www.hamilton.ca/coronavirus


The National Multifamily Housing Council based in the U.S. has put together a preparedness guide for apartment buildings that may be helpful for housing providers in Canada as well:
https://www.nmhc.org/research-insight/analysis-and-guidance/emergency-preparedness/coronavirus-preparedness-for-apartment-firms/


Finder provides regular updates on the COVID-19 virus and is a great resource for consolidated and relevant information for housing providers and tenants:
https://www.finder.com/ca/coronavirushttps://www.finder.com/ca/coronavirus-preparing-for-unemploymenthttps://www.finder.com/ca/coronavirus-financial-assistancehttps://www.finder.com/ca/managing-finances-coronavirushttps://www.finder.com/ca/coronavirus-lost-job-helphttps://www.finder.com/ca/coronavirus-income-protection