Commercial tenants in rent arrears could qualify for an extra two-month reprieve in Ontario in certain COVID-19-related circumstances. The provincial government has tabled legislation to extend the temporary prohibition on commercial evictions enacted last spring until October 30.
The proposed amendment to the Commercial Tenancies Act is part of a package of measures tabled yesterday in Bill 204, the Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act, which also includes a year-long freeze on residential rents for 2021, and stricter parameters for controlling the number of attendees at public gatherings. In contrast to the vast number of residential tenants and landlords covered in the proposed legislation, provincial intervention in the commercial sector is limited to tenants who meet the prerequisites for Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA), but whose landlords have not applied for the relief.
In such cases, the amendment would keep the prohibition on eviction in place if landlords’ writs of possession are based on rent arrears, and prevents landlords from seizing tenants’ property during the same period. It also clarifies that landlords must restore tenants’ property if it was seized in the period after the initial eviction ban expired on August 31.
CECRA has now been extended for a sixth month, to include September, and new relief initiatives are widely expected once the federal government launches a new parliamentary session next week. “We would not be surprised if the successor program allowed small businesses to directly apply, without going through the landlord,” says Michael Brooks, chief executive officer of REALPAC, which represents many of Canada’s major commercial landlords.
“We partnered with the federal government to provide commercial rent relief and so far over 50,000 tenants have received support,” reports Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 isn’t behind us. That’s why we are working with our federal partners to explore opportunities to ensure small businesses continue to receive the support they need.”