The Ontario government will amend the provincial Commercial Tenancies Act to temporarily halt evictions of tenants eligible for Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) and to reverse any such evictions that have occurred since June 3. This follows similar actions in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“A moratorium on commercial evictions will bring stability to our small businesses and the employees and families they support,” Prabmeet Sarkaria, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction said.
As announced yesterday, commercial tenants struggling with COVID-19-related financial fallout will be safe from eviction until August 31, 2020. Commercial landlords are encouraged to make use of the CECRA program and/or other arrangements as businesses reopen and begin to generate revenue again.
“We need everyone working together to overcome COVID-19,” urged Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “Commercial tenants who can pay their rent, must do so. Landlords should work with their tenants to come to an agreement and use this joint program.”
The Ontario government has committed $241 million for its share of the CECRA program, in which federal and provincial/territorial governments jointly subsidize 50 per cent of eligible tenants’ rent for April, May and June, landlords forgive 25 per cent and tenants pay the remainder. The program was announced April 24 and opened for registrations May 25. Since then, government officials in various provinces have chided commercial landlords for what they perceive as slow or reluctant take-up of the program — a characterization that makes industry advocates bristle.
Michael Brooks, chief executive officer of REALPAC, an industry association with membership from many of Canada’s most prominent commercial landlords, property funds and institutional investors, notes that an extensive amount of documentation is required in the application process. “For landlords who have large groups of potentially eligible tenants, it will take many, many weeks of administrative work to enroll those tenants,” he affirms.
“We certainly have been quite concerned with provincial messaging in Ontario and other provinces, criticizing landlords generally for not cooperating with tenants,” Brooks says. “We think that communication was an unfair generalization that failed to recognize the responsible approaches taken by many institutional and large private landlords to deal with their tenants who are having difficulty, including rent deferral and abatement agreements that go back to March.”