Even before COVID-19 hit, many B.C. renters have had to use a large portion of their income to keep a roof over their heads.
But with layoffs in many industries due to closures during the pandemic, tomorrow — when rent is due — has been looming even larger for many renters.
Last week, the province made several announcements to protect renters from being evicted because of the COVID-19 emergency. Those measures include a ban on most evictions, freezing rental increases and providing landlords with a $500 supplement to help pay rent of those struggling now.
But the first $500 monthly rent rebate from the B.C. government for those in need will not arrive in time for April 1.
What does this mean for renters and landlords? Community Legal Assistance Society lawyer Holly Popenia joined B.C. Today host Michelle Eliot to answer rent-related questions.
Q: The $500 rental supplement is not in place for April. What can renters do who are struggling to make rent for April 1?
It’s best to up front and to talk to your landlord as soon as possible if you’re unable to pay the rent. If you can pay part of your rent but maybe not your entire rent, there’s some negotiating room there for you and your landlord to maybe come up with payment plan to tie you over until these rental subsidies comes into place.
If renters are going to do that, I highly recommend that they have these conversations with their landlord and put their agreement in writing and have both parties sign it so that both parties are aware of what was agreed to and they can look back at it if anything changes.
Q: When does the rent freeze go into effect? For example, if you already received your notice of rent increase in February, but your rent doesn’t technically go up until May, is your rent frozen at the February level or the May level?
The rent will be frozen at the February level.
If a tenant was given notice of a rental increase that was meant to come into effect during this period, it will not happen for the duration of the emergency order. Also, landlords can’t issue new rental increases during this period.
There are situations where the increase may still be allowed, like if the rental increase is tied to how many occupants are in the unit.
Q: Does the rent freeze also include residents in social subsidized housing?
When it comes to subsidized housing, often the rent is tied to how many occupants are in the unit. If the rent increase is due to more occupants in the unit, then no, that rent would not be frozen and the rent increase could happen.
Q: For people with disabilities who already receive income assistance, are they eligible for the $500 rental rebate?
If you’re on disability and that disability includes shelter allowance, that shelter allowance would not have changed because of this new subsidy. You will still be receiving it. But unfortunately renters who are receiving the shelter allowance from income assistance or disability will not eligible for the $500 supplement.
Q: What kind of recourse do landlords have if they rely on rent from rental properties to pay their own mortgage?
There are a lot of landlords who are in the situation where they rely on the rent to meet their own mortgage payment. This rental supplement is meant to go directly to the landlord to assist. It does put landlords in a tight spot for April if you’re unable to get your rent payments. You might want to speak to your mortgage provider to see if there’s any deferral of payment that may be applicable for you or talk to your lenders to see if you can get some assistance that way.