The Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) announced to cease all eviction-related hearings early last week as a response to the safety and health measures imposed by the government, unless the matter relates to an illegal act or serious impairment of safety. There are ample concerns from the Landlords in terms of how to deal with non-payment of rent from the Tenant during this unprecedented COVID-19 situation.
If you are a Tenant who recently experiences a layoff or a temporary layoff, it is recommended to communicate with your landlord directly if it affects your ability to pay rent in full.
I believe that most Landlords (or any average individual) tend to be more understanding during this difficult time, when most individuals and businesses are negatively impacted by COVID-19. However, the Tenant's deliberate act of not paying rent is unacceptable to any Landlord, especially when backed by no justifiable reasons but merely a response to this pandemic.
The Tenant should be able to understand that the occupancy of your rental premise is in exchange for the Landlord’s return in Rent. Any Tenant should be obligated to make partial rent payment - if not full payment at the time - unless he or she is currently suffering a proven financial hardship, and works out a payment plan with the Landlord. It also suggests that the Tenant should check out the EI Benefits currently available for those who recently lost their jobs. For those who are not qualified for EI, a newly launch of COVID-19 emergency fund released by the government will be made available in April 2020 as a source of another financial support.
As for the Landlord, please keep an open mind and be flexible, when being informed by the Tenant about his/ her inability to pay rent in full as a result of layoff and such. You can work out a payment plan with the Tenant, in order to make up the rent behind during the reasonable period of time agreed by both parties.
There may be situations when the Landlord strongly feels about no room for discussion/ negotiation with your Tenant about the issue of rent – for example, when the Tenant insists on paying no rent at all deliberately, or when the Tenant is making lower-than-expected partial rent payment which seems not to be proportional to his/ her ability to pay at the time etc. Recently, some Tenants may give Landlords their excuses of late rent payment in association with the availability of mortgage deferral program - but keep in mind that some banks approve the mortgage deferral on the principal residence only with applicable interest charge .
If the latter scenario is your case, the Landlord may consider starting the legal procedure now, despite of a suspension of most eviction-related hearings in LTB. A temporary halt to the in-person hearings only means No Immediate Eviction. The tribunal still continues to process all incoming applications, and it can minimize a prolonged scheduling of hearing once LTB resumes if you submit the application sooner. The following are the suggested steps to approach this issue of non-payment of rent:
- Serve your Tenant with N4 (Xpresspost is recommended at this time), given 14 days in a termination date for payment. Remember to add 5 days to the termination date on the N4 notice when it is sent by Xpresspost or mail;
- If the tenant still doesn’t pay when the termination date on the N4 notice expires, the Landlord can proceed with the L1 application to schedule for a hearing;
- When the hearing will be held in the very future, the Landlord can request a standard order, which allows 11 days for the Tenant to pay for the rent arrears. Sometimes, the Tenant may ask for a time extension to pay for the rent arrears, but it is likely to be granted if the Tenant’s attempt to pay a reasonable portion of rent is demonstrated. If the Tenant seeks for a relief from delaying or refusing eviction under s. 83 of RTA based on the ground(s) of illness, loss of job, accident, COVID-19 or such, it may only be granted if the Tenant can demonstrate his/her intention of paying ongoing rent, along with the outstanding rent, within a reasonable period of time.
- The Landlord can take the order to the Sheriff's office for enforcement, when the eviction order is issued by LTB and the payment isn't made within the specified time stated in the order.
If the Tenant plans to continue the tenancy, the rent arrears should be paid before the specified date stated in the L1 order, or prior to the Sheriff's coming for eviction.
If the Tenant vacates the rental premise without paying the outstanding rent stated in the L1 order, the Landlord can further proceed with the Small Claims Court to seek for the unpaid rent. The Landlord can report to the Credit Bureau after sending a demand letter or/and hire a collection agency to do so, prior to any proceeding in the Small Claims Court. This action may impose a negative impact on the Tenant’s ability to request a loan from the bank(s), secure a rental unit due to the Landlord’s credit check, and acquire a business loan or any emergency fund etc. in the future when needed.
Hopefully, both Landlord and Tenant can work thing together during this difficult time, rather than doing more harm to go against each other, when the circumstance is already challenging to almost everyone.
*Note: It may be subject to change for the above mentioned, if there is any change/update in regards to the government policy due to COVID-19.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be construed as a legal advice, but strictly for your information only. Please contact Trustworthy Legal Services for your independent legal advice in your particular situation. The first consultation is required prior to the retainer of your case.
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