COVID-19: Landlords’ rights and responsibilities explained

COVID-19: Landlords’ rights and responsibilities explained

The government has said that landlords should be lenient with tenants who can't pay their rent during COVID-19, and they're not allowing evictions until this is all over. And while we all understand the hardship of being laid off or not being able to work because we have to care for family members, the pandemic is impacting landlords, too.

Without rent, how do you pay mortgages and maintenance fees? Can you list a place for rent? Can you let people look at it? A lot of landlords are confused about their rights and responsibilities during COVID-19. Here are answers to the most common questions we've been asked.

Can I still ask my tenants for rent?

Yes. If tenants can afford to pay their rent, they should be paying it. However, if they can't pay, you can't evict them. If you anticipate there might be an issue, get ahead of the situation before it becomes a problem. Don’t wait for them to come to you: reach out and ask them how they're doing, if they’re impacted by health/employment/childcare issues. Most of all, be human – we’re all in the same boat here.

However, when it comes to rent, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If they can't afford the full amount, see if they can pay half. After all, half goes further than nothing when it comes to paying your mortgage. Also, we don't know if the government will require that unpaid rent be covered after the pandemic is over, or whether it will be forgiven. So getting at least some money now could make a big difference. Paying a portion can also make your tenants feel like they’re contributing, even though they can't swing the full amount right now.

How do I pay my mortgage if I'm not getting rent payments?

You can talk to your lender about mortgage deferral: qualified borrowers can defer for up to six months. While this isn't ideal, since your interest will keep building over that time, the option is there if you need it.

A home equity line of credit is another option – one that may be better than deferral if your mortgage is still high. Only borrowing (and paying interest on) what you need rather than paying extra interest on your entire loan can save you money in the long term. Talk to your lender, accountant or financial advisor to figure out what’s best for you.

Can I evict my tenants?

Not right now. The Landlord and Tenant Board is closed and there will be no new eviction orders until further notice, and all evictions that were in progress have been suspended. Landlords can still give tenants an eviction notice, but all hearings and orders are on hold except for urgent disputes involving illegal acts or serious safety concerns.

It looks like it will be months before they reopen, and when they do, it will take time to get through the backlog – so landlords shouldn't expect a quick resolution. You will be heard eventually, however, so make sure you keep a good paper trail: all communication should be by email or text. And make sure you file everything you need now, even if you know your filings won't be addressed for a while.

Can I sell or rent my condo?

Yes, you can still rent it out or sell it, but this definitely isn't the ideal time to do so. We encourage virtual showings wherever possible, with in-person showings only available as a condition on the offer. Remember that condos have special challenges during COVID-19, with elevators and other shared spaces upping the risk, and some buildings aren’t allowing any showings at all.

To add even more challenge, there are limits around how you can market your property right now: no open houses are allowed, and pricing games designed to attract multiple offers are being discouraged. Right now, sellers are targeting qualified, motivated buyers. Plus, stagers, painters, etc. aren’t available, so most places are being sold in “what you see is what you get” condition. But there are other opportunities for virtual marketing like virtual tours and virtual staging to show what the space could look like.

Another factor to consider is that your current tenants, even if they’ve given notice, may not actually be able to move out. Whether it's due to job loss, health or a scenario where the place they were going to move to is no longer available, it's something to keep in mind. Every tenant that's unable to move impacts others in a domino effect that can end up being pretty far-reaching. You'll need to add in special clauses on any offers to protect yourself in case of issues on closing, especially if you're selling to someone who wants to move into the home themselves. It boils down to this: if you don't need to sell or rent the unit right away, it's best to hold off if you can.

Can I show a tenanted property?

Yes, but only in the most urgent circumstances and only with the tenants’ permission. They have the right to refuse to have someone in their home, especially if older people or young children live there. Arrangements, where there will only be the one showing as the final condition of an offer, may be something you may be able to settle on, but having multiple people enter their home during the pandemic is not alright.

Are you a tenant looking for info on your rights and responsibilities? Read COVID-19: What tenants need to know

Want to know more about the state of the Toronto housing market from an investor/landlord point of view? Talk to a Condo Pro to get insights into your rights, responsibilities and options.

About Marc Ronné

Being a former business owner of a Graphic Design consulting firm has given Marc an eye for detail and a creative edge. Looking to exceed client expectations with fierce negotiation skills, VIP client service, and in-depth local knowledge, Marc makes for an exceptional real estate agent when buying or selling. He always goes the extra mile for his clients and is one of the Top Producers in the brokerage. He is a condo pro for the West End and Downtown Core, servicing areas like Mimico, High Park, King and Queen West / Liberty Village, and Yorkville.

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