COVID-19: Tenants’ rights and responsibilities explained

COVID-19: Tenants’ rights and responsibilities explained

The government recently announced that tenants who have lost their jobs can't be evicted for not paying rent. Which is great, but what does that mean exactly? What if I haven't lost my job but my hours have been cut in half? What if I was about to move into a new place but the old tenants haven't left? My landlord may not be able to evict me, but what happens if he makes my life miserable instead? If I don't pay rent now, will I have to pay it all later? I need to move – are there still places out there for rent?

So many questions, we know. It's a confusing, stressful time for everyone, so we’ll try to answer as many as we can. (We also talk about landlord rights and responsibilities in a separate post – read it here if you're interested.)

Do I have to pay rent during COVID-19?

Yes, if you can afford to, you should pay the full amount, on time, just like always. The temporary change to eviction rules is designed to help people who can't pay this month’s rent. It's NOT a holiday from paying.

One thing the government hasn't made clear, however, is whether the unpaid rent will be forgiven, or if you'll be expected to pay it later, once you're able to work again. If you haven’t paid anything now, it will be that much harder to pay the accumulated amount later. So if you’ve got the cash, use it. Remember, relief is available through EI and the CERB. Alternatively, your landlord may be open to a lower amount, if that's all you can afford. Do what you can. That way, if unpaid rent has to be repaid after COVID-19, you'll have less to worry about.

But while you won’t get evicted for not paying, nobody’s talking about the impact it could have on your credit rating. If your landlord reports it, your score could be affected. Keep that in mind, too.

Also remember that landlords have mortgages to pay, and most count on the income from your rent every month to be able to do that. So if you can, pay your rent. And if you genuinely can't, talk to your landlord – you may be surprised at the compromises you can reach together.

What if I've been laid off or my hours have been cut?

The government is encouraging tenants and landlords to work together to come up with a resolution. If you've been laid off, tap into EI or CERB or give Ontario Works a try. Tap into your savings if you can. Only resort to not paying if it's truly your only option.

Can my landlord evict me?

No. The government has said there will be no new eviction orders until further notice, and any current evictions (those in progress right now) are suspended.

Can my landlord increase my rent?

Also no. The government has said there are to be no rent increases until further notice.

Can my landlord show my unit to prospective renters or buyers?

Yes, but only with your permission. Landlords are encouraged to rely primarily on virtual tours and request entry only in urgent situations or for offers that are conditional on a final viewing.

I'm supposed to move into my new condo rental soon, but the current tenants haven't moved out. What can I do?

For the time being, there's not much you can do. Evictions are illegal right now, so if the tenants don't leave, nobody will force them out. You may have to get creative and find alternative arrangements. On the plus side, however, a lot of vacant Airbnb condos are coming onto the long-term rental market due to lost tourism, so there are way more rental options out there than there were just a few weeks ago.

Can I go look at a new place to rent?

Yes, but it will probably be a challenge. Many agents are choosing not to do showings to protect themselves and their families, and some buildings are not allowing showings at all. However, if you're open to choosing a new place based on a virtual tour, you could end up finding something great. But if you’re risk-averse and don't desperately need a new place to live, it may be best to hold off – the situation won't last forever.

Want to know more about the state of the Toronto housing market for renters?
Ask a Condo Pro! Our experts will be happy to talk to you about your options and your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.

About Marc Ronne

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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