The owner of a Kamloops property management company said he is encouraged by measures announced on Wednesday to help British Columbians cover their rent as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to steamroll the Canadian economy.
But he added that more will have to be done in many cases.
Premier John Horgan said Victoria will be providing up to $500 per month for tenants who are unable to make rent due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The program is expected to remain in place for three months.
John Brandon, owner of Columbia Property Management, told KTW he is happy the government took swift action. Canada’s economy began to grind to a halt last week and hundreds of thousands of people are out of a job.
Brandon said he understands many of his company’s tenants are out of work due to COVID-19 — either ordered to stay home or laid off as businesses are temporarily shuttered.
“If that means they have to stay home and not work, then that’s what we have to do,” he said. “We have to do whatever we can to stop this virus and get things back to normal. It’s really good they came out with something today [Wednesday]. Tenants wanted to know. Now they have a good idea what’s available for them.”
The supplemental funds announced will be available through B.C. Housing and paid directly to landlords.
“We are doing everything we can to make sure that if [people] are sick or self-isolating or if they have had their hours cut back or they were laid off that they would not be fearful of losing their home,” Horgan said, adding that only people unable to pay their rent should apply for the rental supplement.
“The fewer people who access the program, the more opportunity we have to expand it going forward,” Horgan said, noting there are about 500,000 renters in B.C.
Horgan acknowledged that $500 doesn’t go a long way in B.C.’s pricey rental market, but said the money fills a gap along with the federal government’s $2,000 per- month Canada Emergency Response Benefit and the province’s one-time, $1,000 B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers payment.
Brandon said the overall picture for out-of-work tenants will be buoyed by that government cash.
“It’s not just the $500,” he said. “Five-hundred dollars isn’t rent — rents are much higher than that. But government’s been showing they’re going to try to do a lot to make this work.”
The province is also suspending current and future evictions — and instituting a full freeze on rental increases — until the crisis has passed.
“People are feeling a lot of fear and anxiety and they need to be able to depend on the comfort and stability of home right now. Our government is taking steps to help take some of the pressure off renters and landlords and protect people’s health,” said Selina Robinson, minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“We’re helping renters pay rent and giving them the peace of mind that they have a stable home in these unprecedented times, and ensuring that landlords can count on some rental income right now to keep them afloat too.”
Brandon said tenants and landlords will have to be co-operative in the coming months.
“Hopefully, we can weather this storm for ourselves, for the tenants and for the owners,” he said. “We will have to work together. And, for the most part, I think everybody is.”
The full list of immediate rental/housing measures includes:
• The new temporary rent supplement will provide up to $500 per month, paid directly to landlords.
• Halting evictions by ensuring a landlord may not issue a new notice to end tenancy for any reason. However, in exceptional cases where it may be needed to protect health and safety or to prevent undue damage to the property, landlords will be able to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for a hearing.
• Halting the enforcement of existing eviction notices issued by the tenancy branch, except in extreme cases where there are safety concerns. The smaller number of court-ordered evictions are up to the courts, which operate independently of government.
• Freezing new annual rent increases during the state of emergency.
• Preventing landlords from accessing rental units without the consent of the tenant (for example, for showings or routine maintenance), except in exceptional cases where it’s needed to protect health and safety or to prevent undue damage to the unit.
• Restricting methods that renters and landlords can use to serve notices to reduce the potential transmission of COVID-19 (no personal service and allowing email).
• Allowing landlords to restrict the use of common areas by tenants or guests to protect against the transmission of COVID-19.
In an effort to halt the spread of the virus, many businesses have been ordered closed, leaving people across B.C. suddenly without work and scrambling to make ends meet during the health crisis.
— with files from the Vancouver Sun