The Ontario government is ensuring it has the flexibility to prohibit commercial evictions whenever it deems necessary. Although the suspension of commercial landlords’ ability to evict tenants and/or seize their property came to an end on October 30, a proposed amendment to the Commercial Tenancies Act — included in the budget bill, introduced last week — gives the Minister authority to make regulations to impose future non-enforcement periods for COVID-19-related reasons.
“That’s not good for predictability in the real estate market,” maintains Brooks Barnett, director of government relations and policy with REALPAC. “It’s problematic for any government to have a switch like this that it can just flick on and off, willy-nilly. It’s an extremely blunt policy tool. A blanket moratorium on evictions lumps all businesses together regardless of their prosperity.”
Several Canadian provinces invoked measures in the spring of 2020 to protect business tenants from eviction and loss of their possessions during a period when COVID-19-related shutdowns and financial stresses may have undermined their ability to pay rent. However, Barnett notes that those prohibitions have now largely expired.
“A lot of businesses can afford to pay their rent and, for them, the message should be: pay your rent. It removes the incentive for businesses that are doing well to meet their rental obligations if there is no penalty should they not do so.” Barnett asserts. “It’s also not good for the economy, long-term, to have blanket eviction bans.”