A Landlords Guide through COVID-19

As a landlord you are currently finding yourself amidst an unprecedented pandemic situation that is evolving on a daily basis. Every day marks new changes and it can be difficult to navigate through all the information presented. It’s understood that the well-being and the health of everyone in Ontario is top priority for the government right now. The provincial government has been monitoring the situation and taking action to stop the spread of ​COVID-19​, but where does that leave you as a landlord?

Understanding and Patience

During this time it’s important for landlords to have extra patience and understanding. These are difficult times for everybody and some people are in a position where they don’t know where their next meal will come from, let alone where they will find the money to pay their rent. Some are dealing with health issues and others are worried about friends and family. As a landlord, your patience and understanding will be a guiding force to help you get through this tough time.

Landlord and Tenant Board

Most of the landlord applications are able to be filed online but the counter services remain closed for the time being. Any hearings regarding tenancy have been suspended and the board is willing to work with telephone or written hearings where possible but the cases must not be dealing with evictions.

Landlord eviction order hearings are being kept on hold for now but landlords are still able to give an eviction notice to tenants. If there is an urgent dispute that involves safety concerns or illegal acts, an eviction order or hearing may be provided as an exception. Any eviction order enforcement is currently suspended but if there is an urgent situation, it’s possible for a landlord to get enforcement of an eviction order in court. While all regular and general court operations have currently been suspended by the ​Superior Court​, there is a process in place to make sure that any motions that are considered urgent can be heard.

Rent Payments

During this time it may be difficult for some tenants to come up with the money for rent. Some may have lost their jobs while others are not working because they have to self-isolate. It’s important for tenants and landlords to try their best to come together and work as a team to make fair arrangements so that tenants can remain in their homes. Landlords should consider talking to tenants that are having a hard time paying their rent about deferring payments or about any other possible arrangements that can be made. Landlords can also let the tenants know about any federal programs or financial assistance available to help pay for rent.

Managing Landlord Costs

On March 24, 2020, the regular pricing for time-of-use electricity charges was suspended for 45 days. Off-peak pricing is being charged 24 hours per day. This change in pricing is automatically applied to everyone within the province. This means that all people within Ontario are paying the lowest rate at any time of the night or day for the use of electricity. This can end up being a huge help for landlords with large properties and for many tenants that are unable to pay rent as a result of the pandemic.

Payments for property tax made by municipalities to school boards are also being deferred for 90 days. Businesses, landlords and residents will find some relief with these deferred payments since it will give them more flexibility as well. Landlords should also talk to their municipal government about getting help with service fees and property taxes at a municipal level. They should also learn more about programs offered by the federal government and talk to their mortgage lenders about the possibility of payment deferrals on any home loans.

Locking out Tenants

It is illegal to lock out tenants and to change the locks on a building or a rental unit without providing a new key for the locks to the tenant. You cannot threaten to lock out a tenant either and must abide by the laws of eviction.

Physical Distancing and Entering a Unit

The law states that a landlord can enter a tenant’s unit if he gives written notice within 24 hours of entering. This written notice must state a time period on a specific day and give the reason for wanting or needing to enter the unit. In the event of an emergency, however, the landlord can enter the unit even if the tenant refuses entry.

An update has been issued based on the situation with COVID-19 and landlords are asked to ask for entry only if the situation is urgent. If a landlord must enter a rental unit he is required to follow all of the guidelines set forth for physical distancing within the province.

Landlords selling homes that are currently occupied by tenants are strongly advised to avoid showings in person as recommended by the ​Real Estate Council of Ontario​. These are troubling times for everyone and we are being encouraged to protect the safety and health of all involved by working together to find the best solutions. Tenants must pay their rent if they’re able to and if they are having a problem in this regard, alternative solutions may possibly be found.

Financial Help for Tenants

Tenants can reach out for help in the following ways:

  • ●  Access programs funded by the federal government
  • ●  Contact a local service manager
  • ●  Apply for Covid-19 assistance

Financial Help for Landlords

Landlords are able to reach out for help in these ways:

  • ●  Learn more about programs run by the federal government
  • ●  Discuss deferrals for mortgage payments with the lenders
  • ●  Explore the possibility of getting help with service fees and property taxes at a municipal levelLandlords that currently own their own properties as well as people intending to become a landlord through the purchase of ​pre condos in Mississauga​ or Toronto should find out all of their rights and responsibilities during the pandemic.