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Province looks to ban evictions of commercial tenants

The start of phase two in the provincial government’s opening plan has arrived for most parts of the province. Waterloo Region is one of the areas where more businesses were able to start opening, and easing restrictions as of June 12. While this may be good news for most of the businesses that were struggling with a loss of revenue, some are still facing problems from which they will not be able to recover. High on that list has been paying their rent.

Many businesses have been asking for assistance for months from the government as they were having trouble paying their rent due to lower or nonexistent revenues since the pandemic lockdown started. Now there’s some blue sky on the horizon after Premier Doug Ford made a slew of announcements in early June, including good news for struggling tenants in the form of a temporary ban on commercial evictions coming in the near future, making it illegal for any commercial landlord to evict a tenant for the period of June 3 to August 31.

The legislation has yet to pass, but the news that it is coming is already welcomed by those in the business community that have been lobbying for changes since the pandemic started. Included in this group is Julie Kwiecinski, director of provincial affairs for Ontario with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

… not every landlord is a “cartoon villain.” In fact, there are many who are willing to work with their tenants to find a solution that works for everyone.

“We are so thankful to the government for acting on this, we have been fighting for this, CFIB, since right when the pandemic broke out. I remember discussing this with government officials going as far back as March. So, this has been something that we’ve been working on vehemently on behalf of our members,” said Kwiecinski. “We’re relieved, we really are relieved that the 16th of this month members aren’t going to have to worry, you’re not going to see commercial tenants tossed out on the street.”

She continues by saying this legislation may be the kick that some commercial landlords need to make them apply for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA).

Previously, Kwiecinski said that 47 per cent of landlords stated they will not be applying for the CECRA, either due to problems with the system, or simply not caring enough. She even says in one instance where a landlord told a tenant “I’d rather get zero and evict you than take the 50 per cent funding for CECRA from the province and the federal government.”

Now, because there are protections, she believes it’s in the best interest of these landlords to apply because they can no longer use options one or two which would allow them to evict a tenant 16 days after not receiving payment, or sell the tenants belongings up to six days after not receiving payment.

Kwiecinski says that while there are many landlords who seem to be unwilling to work with their tenants by not applying for CECRA or finding an alternative solution, not every landlord is a “cartoon villain.” In fact, there are many who are willing to work with their tenants to find a solution that works for everyone.

She says she was told that one landlord offered tenants a 50 per cent reduction in rent early on in the pandemic, showing that there are good ones out there who care to help the businesses they house.

Kwiecinski believes this is a good start, but there is always more that can be done to help businesses. In a survey conducted by the CFIB, 57.2 per cent of Waterloo businesses say without additional assistance, they would not be able to pay their rent. Additionally, the average amount of debt incurred because of COVID-19 by businesses is about $75,000 with maximums reaching as high as $450,000.

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