Tenants given up to July2021 to repay rent in instalments under B.C. government guidelines

[CBC – July 16, 2020]

The B.C. government has released a framework for how — and when — rent that went unpaid during the pandemic is expected to be gradually repaid to landlords.

In March, the province announced a freeze on evictions for unpaid rent, along with a monthly rebate for renters.

The eviction freeze is set to be lifted Sept. 1, meaning tenants will have to pay full rent for September. Tenants will still owe their landlord rent that was missed over the past few months, but will have until next summer to pay it back in a gradual way.

According to the new plan unveiled Thursday, it will be up to the landlord to present their tenant with a repayment plan 30 days before the repayment is expected. The plan will need to include the total outstanding rent and the breakdown in monthly instalments.

A statement from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing says some flexibility will be given for the tenant and landlord to distribute the outstanding rent across the months until July 2021.

“Nothing changes today, but we want to make sure that people have enough runway to make the decisions they need to make, recognizing that we’re going to be removing the ban on evictions,” said Selina Robinson, minister of municipal affairs and housing.

It’s expected the first repayment instalment will be due Oct. 1 for most renters who missed rent during the pandemic.

According to the ministry, 85 per cent of tenants continued to pay full rent throughout the pandemic, with 12 per cent paying partial rent.

‘Tough situation for everyone’

David Hutniak, CEO of Landlord B.C., said he’s fine with the plan for rent recovery.

“It’s a tough situation for everyone, but I think it’s something that we can work through as a sector,” said Hutniak.

“There’s no winners in this whole situation, and we’re obviously sensitive to the fact that renters had a huge challenge here, and it’s great the province provided the rent supplement,” he said of the Temporary Rent Supplement, which provided landlords up to $500 in rent.

Hutniak expressed some uncertainty about the ability to recover rent unpaid during the pandemic if tenants vacate a property.

“There’s a certain messiness around all of that, let’s be honest here,” he said.

Robinson said the compliance unit would look into cases where renters vacate without paying rent that is owed.

‘It’s going to lead to mass evictions’

For tenants, the prospect of repaying missed rent and paying rent going forward — while unemployment is still high and the economy is struggling — may be grim.

“It’s not feasible and it’s going to lead to mass evictions,” said Mazdak Gharibnavaz, a member of the Vancouver Tenants Union (VTU) steering committee.

“Paying off accumulated rent debt during a global economic recession is not feasible for those who were already living paycheque to paycheque before the pandemic,” said Gharibnavaz.

The VTU has been pressuring the government to provide broad relief for renters who have not been able to pay rent during the pandemic.

The province also announced on Thursday that the freeze on rent increases would be extended through to December.

Gharibnavaz said his group has been pushing for a rent increase freeze since long before the pandemic, but for Hutniak, that news wasn’t welcome.

“Pushing it back is problematic for our sector,” he said.

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