On March 19, 2020, two days after announcing a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ontario moved to temporarily protect residential tenants from eviction. The Landlord and Tenant Board suspended all eviction application hearings and the Superior Court of Justice ordered that no eviction orders shall be enforced. With 2.2 million Ontario workers directly affected by either job losses or reduced hours, this action provided Ontario renters—many of whom living paycheque to paycheque—with critical relief. However, by May 15, the Ontario government continued to resist calls to extend the same protection to small business tenants.
In lieu of providing legal protection, the province instead encouraged "cooperation" and called on commercial landlords of small businesses to be fair, flexible, and leverage the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program which would open for applications on May 25. CECRA provides eligible commercial landlords with unsecured, forgivable loans to supplement lost rental income from their small business tenants. Commercial landlords are eligible if their small business tenant(s) pay no more than $50,000 in monthly gross rent per location, generate no more than $20 million in gross annual revenues, and have experienced at least a 70% decline in revenue. To qualify, the commercial landlord must agree to reduce their small business tenants' rent by at least 75% and agree to a moratorium on the eviction.
As a result of the structure of CECRA, the relief is provided to commercial landlords—should they choose to apply—without direct protections for small business tenants. However, as of June 5, there were only 7,000 applications out of the province's 418,000 small businesses. This figure, in combination with calls from advocacy groups to extend legal protections, resulted in the passage of the Protecting Small Business Act.
The Act suspends evictions by commercial landlords who are not applying for the CECRA program despite their tenants being eligible for the program. Tenants and landlords can learn more about eligibility and the application process at ontario.ca/rentassistance. Applications are being accepted until August 31, 2020.
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Originally published 06 August, 2020
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