Tenant advocates encourage rent strike in Ontario due to COVID-19
TORONTO -- Some tenant advocates say that when April 1 comes around next week many people renting have no intention of paying their rent and they’re telling other renters to do the same due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They are drafting letters to landlords for other renters to use as templates and they’re creating posters to be hung in buildings calling on tenants to “keep your rent April 1.”
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says half the working renters in Canada don’t have enough money to pay their bills if they lose their jobs and they live paycheque-to-paycheque.
The covid-19 virus has caused many people to stay home, self-isolate and lose their income. The federal government has promised a financial assistance package of $82 billion, but it’s still not clear exactly how the money will be distributed and how long it will take to get it.
Geordie Dent, the executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, says many tenants are currently in a very difficult situation.
“April 1 is shaping up to be a bit of a bloodbath. A lot of people have had their income pulled out from beneath them so a lot of people can't pay the rent right now,” Dent said.
Dent’s group believes the rent for next month should be waived across Canada because he says even when funds from the government come it may take until May or June before assistance arrives.
“A lot of them are terrified a family member will get sick [and] they may need medicine. So a lot of them are gearing up to tell the landlord I can't pay the rent this month,” Dent said.
Ontario Landlords Watch is an advocacy group which represent about 4,000 small and medium sized landlords. It says its phone has been ringing off the hook with concerned members saying they have been told by their tenants they will not be paying rent because of the virus.
“We have the concept that no one should worry about paying the rent. This has caused chaos," the Ontario Landlords Watch CEO Kayla Andrade said.
Andrade says landlords are counting on tenants to pay the rent on time. Because evictions have been put on hold indefinitely while the pandemic is ongoing, landlords are also concerned some tenants could take advantage of the situation.
“There are a growing number of tenants who are planning a rent strike. This would be catastrophic for landlords who need that money to be able to make their payments," she said.
Both tenants and landlords are calling on the federal and provincial governments to find a solution.
There are suggestions for the use of rent banks with no interest loans, or special funding that would go directly to tenants or landlords specifically for rent payments.