Government Support Programs for Residential Landlords

Articles

During the uncertain times brought on by COVID-19, residential landlords in BC may experience difficulties with collecting rents. In this article, we provide a summary of provincial and federal government support programs available to residential landlords at this time.

Note: This article is current to April 15, 2020.

Provincial

On March 25, 2020, the BC government issued a news release outlining rental housing support measures that would be adopted in BC. The support measures are now available by way of the BC-Temporary Rental Supplement Program. This BC-TRS Program has the following features, as outlined by BC Housing:

Temporary Rental Supplement
  • This new rental supplement provides households with up to $500 per month towards rent, to be paid directly to landlords on behalf of tenants, to ensure landlords continue to receive rental income during the pandemic.
  • The BC-TRS supplement is not intended to cover the entire amount of rent due. BC Housing encourages landlords and tenants to work together regarding reasonable options, including repayment plans if necessary.
  • At this time, the BC-TRS supplement will be available for three months (subject to change).
Eligibility and Application

To be eligible, the tenant (or tenant’s household) must meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Have a 2019 gross household income of less than:
    • $74,150 for singles and couples without dependents; or
    • $113,040 for households with dependents.
  2. As a result of COVID-19:
    • be receiving or eligible for Employment Insurance; or
    • be receiving or eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit offered by the federal government; or
    • have experienced, and be able to provide evidence of, a drop of 25% or more in monthly household employment income.
  3. Be paying more than 30% of current household income towards rent.

Applications for BC-TRS are now being accepted and can be submitted online through the BC-TRS Portal. Tenants must start the application (landlords cannot apply on behalf of tenants) and must provide the following information in order to confirm eligibility:

  • Proof of address, such as a driver’s license or utility bill, recent pay stub with address, or items of mail addressed to the tenant at the rental address
  • Proof of monthly rent amount, such as a signed tenancy agreement, rent receipt, or notice of rent increase
  • Their landlord’s details and contact information, including email address
  • For every household member who is over the age of 19:
      • Identification, such as a driver’s license, passport, or BC identification card
    • Proof of 2019 income (2019 Notice of Assessment or T-Slips), or letter from Employer
    • Proof of 2020 income loss related to COVID-19, and proof of receipt of Employment Insurance, Canada Emergency Response Benefit, Record of Employment, letter from employer, etc.

Once the tenant’s eligibility has been confirmed, an email will be sent to the landlord asking them to complete the application process. Landlords will be asked to confirm details around tenancy, rental address, and monthly rent amount. They will need to provide their mailing address and banking information to receive payment by direct deposit.

Once the landlord has completed their portion of the application, both the tenant and landlord will receive a final confirmation email.

Do note that where there are multiple non-family member roommates residing in one rental unit, each non-family member roommate is considered to be an individual household and should submit separate applications.

Alongside the BC-TRS Program, BC is amending the Residential Tenancy Act to bring the following changes into force (an FAQ on these changes has been published by the BC Government):

Moratorium on Evictions for Non-Payment of Rent

Landlords may not issue a new notice to end tenancy for any reason of the following reasons:

  1. Unpaid rent or utilities;
  2. Cause;
  3. Landlord or purchaser use;
  4. End of employment as a caretaker, or end of employment if the rental unit is being rented as a condition of employment;
  5. demolition, renovation, and conversion of a rental unit (or closure of a manufactured home park); or
  6. Failure to qualify for a rental unit in subsidized housing.

The landlord can apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for a hearing to end a tenancy if:

  1. It would be unreasonable or unfair to the landlord or other occupants of the residential property to wait for the state of emergency to end and the tenant or a person permitted on the residential property by the tenant has:
    • significantly interfered with or unreasonably disturbed another occupant or the landlord;
    • seriously jeopardized the health or safety or a lawful right or interest of the landlord or another occupant;
    • put the landlord’s property at significant risk;
    • engaged in illegal activity that
      • has caused or is likely to cause damage to the landlord’s property,
      • has adversely affected or is likely to adversely affect the quiet enjoyment, security, safety or physical well-being of another occupant of the residential property, or
      • has jeopardized or is likely to jeopardize a lawful right or interest of another occupant or the landlord;
    • caused extraordinary damage to the residential property.
  2. The rental unit must be vacated to comply with an order of a municipal, provincial or federal authority, and it would be unreasonable, or unfair to the landlord or other occupants of the residential property to wait for the state of emergency to end.
  3. The rental unit is uninhabitable, or the tenancy agreement is otherwise frustrated. A tenancy agreement is frustrated when an unexpected event beyond anyone’s reasonable control occurs making it impossible to meet the original terms of a tenancy agreement, or the terms can only be met in a significantly different manner than what was intended.

Enforcement of existing eviction orders issued by the Residential Tenancy Branch will be halted, except in extreme cases where there are safety concerns. This will not affect court-ordered evictions, however, as the courts operate independently from government.

Freeze on Rent Increases
  • New annual rent increases will be frozen during the state of emergency.
  • A landlord can still give a notice of rent increase in accordance with the Act. However, the rent increase will not come into effect until the state of emergency has ended.
  • If a notice has already been given it remains valid. However, the rent increase will not come into effect until after the state of emergency has ended. If a tenant has given their landlord post-dated cheques, the tenant should request that the cheques be returned to them and they can issue new cheques. If a landlord collects the additional amount during the state of emergency, the tenant can deduct the additional amount from future rent payments.
  • Restrictions on Access to Rental Units and Common Areas
    • To encourage physical distancing and minimize transmission of COVID-19, landlords are not permitted to enter the rental unit without the consent of the tenant (even if proper notice has been served) unless there is risk to personal property or life.
    • A landlord cannot enter the rental unit for open houses or to show the unit to prospective tenants without the consent of the tenant.
    • A landlord cannot enter the rental unit to make regular repairs unless the tenant gives consent.
  • Restrictions on Serving Documents and Applying for Dispute Resolution during the Pandemic
    • Parties are expected to make reasonable efforts to file applications within the timelines set out in the legislation. However, if time limits are not met due to COVID-19, the Director will consider those circumstances when determining whether an extension is granted.
      1. While Service BC and the Burnaby Residential Tenancy Branch office are currently open and modifying their operations to ensure everyone’s safety, parties are asked to stay home if possible, and are encouraged to file applications and evidence online.
      2. The following documents that cannot be filed online, may be emailed to the Residential Tenancy Branch at RTBGAREF@Victoria1.gov.bc.ca:
        • Amendments
        • Review Requests
        • Corrections
        • Clarifications
        • Substituted Service
        • Request to Join
      3. Parties unable to use email or upload evidence may contact the Residential Tenancy Branch to determine other available options.
    • Serving documents in-person is suspended. All other existing methods of service remain available.
    • A Director’s Order has been issued for the length of the state of emergency allowing parties to use email to give or serve documents in order to minimize interactions between people.
    • Parties must think carefully about what method of service they use to ensure materials are received by the other party while maintaining physical distancing, social isolation or quarantine

Federal

Although the scope and scale of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan includes income support measures, rental housing issues fall under provincial jurisdiction and are being addressed separately by each of the individual provinces. Other than income support measures, the following relief measures may be relevant to landlords:

Income Tax Deferrals
  • For individual landlords (other than trusts), the Government of Canada is extending the filing due date for 2019 tax returns until June 1, 2020. Also, any new income tax balances due, or instalments, can be deferred until after August 31, 2020 without interest or penalties.
  • For business landlords, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after March 18 and before September 2020 can be deferred until after August 31, 2020 without interest or penalties.
Mortgage Deferrals
  • Canadian banks have committed to work with customers on a case-by-case basis to find solutions to manage mortgage-related hardships caused by COVID-19.
Mortgage Insurance
  • The Government of Canada has launched an Insured Mortgage Purchase Program, in which it will purchase up to $150 billion of insured mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. This action is intended to provide stable funding to banks and mortgage lenders, help facilitation continued lending to Canadian consumers and businesses, and add liquidity to Canada’s mortgage market.
  • The Government of Canada encourages landlords to seek assistance from CHMC if they are facing financial difficulty. Mortgage insurers offer tools to lenders that can assist landlords. These tools include payment deferral, loan re-amortization, capitalization of outstanding interest arrears and other eligible expenses, and special payment arrangements.
  • Mortgage insurers are committed to helping lenders to defer up to six monthly mortgage payments (interest and principal) for impacted borrowers. Deferred payments are added to the outstanding principal balance and subsequently repaid throughout the life of the mortgage.

Please contact any of the Commercial Real Estate lawyers of Clark Wilson LLP for further information.

For more legal analysis of how COVID may affect your business, or personal affairs, visit Clark Wilson’s COVID-19 Resource and FAQ pages