We are living through troubling times as we try to cope with the various ramifications of Covid 19 pandemic. If you have lost your job or are trying to manage on a reduced income, one of the most pressing issues is ensuring that you can still afford your home, whether you are renting or paying a mortgage.
With the high number of rental properties in Alberta, this has led to a high level of uncertainty across the province both for landlords and tenants alike. The guidelines seem to be changing on a regular basis, so it is imperative to keep up with the current regulations and advice.
A major issue is that non-payment of rent could lead to evictions and the current regulations are just not that clear. Evictions for non-payment of rent have been suspended during the Coronavirus pandemic, but this rent amnesty expired on May 1st 2020 and even this seems uncertain now.
Other reasons for eviction, such as damaging property, or carrying out criminal activities from a rented property remain unaffected by the pandemic.
The CPLEA (centre for public legal education Alberta) has advised that landlords must work with tenants to make a rent payment plan in the case of non-payment, rather than go straight for eviction.
The payment plan needs to be drawn up and signed by both tenant and landlord as a legally binding document and it is important to remember that any deviation from the plan could lead to eviction. Therefore, it is important to be accurate in your financial projections and future payment plan.
During this crisis, tenants are able to access financial assistance through the government. Please visit the Government website to obtain the information you need regarding credit and support.
Non-payment of rent can have a knock-on effect for landlords. Many landlords rely on their rental income to pay their mortgages and need to make alternative arrangements with their banks if this becomes an issue. Many Alberta banks are deferring mortgage payments for six months to provide peace of mind and financial breathing room while we endure this crisis.
There are also new rules on the landlord’s right of access to property. Previously under the Residencies Act, a landlord or agent could enter property in order to carry out maintenance or repairs, to check on or show the property to prospective new tenants if appropriate notice is provided to the existing tenant. This is not permissible now if any of the involved parties; the tenant, the landlord or the prospective new tenant is self-isolating or have tested positive for COVID 19.
This means that prospective tenants can still be shown properties but only as long as COVID 19 symptoms have not been reported. If the landlord is unwell, he or she can appoint an agent as long as the existing tenant is informed.
Landlords of shared properties such as apartment blocks or condos do have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of their tenants. So with the demands of the Coronavirus, this should be extended in order to improve the hygiene of public areas.
Landlords need to carry out disinfecting of public areas and walkways on a regular basis. There should also be hand sanitizer in spaces that usually experience high traffic and other safety measures, such as signage to remind tenants to follow the health directions.
This is important, not only for safety but to avoid any complaints to the Environmental Public Health Authority.
We all need to work together to beat this virus and the only way we can do this is to follow the health advice provided by the Government authorities.