Castanet asked the community to send in your biggest questions regarding tenancy during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of Robert Zivkovic and Sean Paulsen of Associated Property Management, some of your questions get answered on the current market challenges and the uncertainty of what's next.
1a. With some renters refusing or unable to pay for the month, how do you recommend landlords deal with it?
- Tenants and landlords must communicate with each other. If tenants are unable to pay, the landlord and tenant would agree to a payment plan. Communicating and documenting the agreements made will be imperative for both parties. Landlords will be able to collect or evict for outstanding rents once the emergency declaration has been lifted. It is unclear at this time how long tenants will have to pay back outstanding rents.
1b. What should tenants do if they can’t afford rent?
- If a tenant can’t pay they should have the conversations with their landlord on what they can pay and when these payment dates will be. The tenant should also apply for the Emergency Rental Benefit to supply the landlord with the $500 subsidy government is willing to offer during this time. All rents remain due and payable even during the Emergency Order.
2. I am a landlord who has tenants refusing to leave after a fixed-term lease is set to end at the end of this month. How do you deal with that situation?
- If the tenant is unwilling to leave a fixed-term lease at this time the landlord has no way to enforce the end of the tenancy situation till the state of emergency is lifted in BC. Once the state of emergency is over the landlord will be able to file for an order of possession to obtain their home.
- Additionally, any funds collected by the landlord after the end of the fixed-term should be received and receipted as “For Use and Occupancy Only”. Landlords failing to do so could create a month-to-month tenancy arrangement.
3. How do new landlords go about ensuring prospective tenants have adequate resources to continue paying rent going forward during the pandemic? Employment reference checks, contracts, etc.
- Tenant screening is always important. Renting during these times can be a challenge for any landlord. To ensure the best quality of tenant, the landlord should look to receive from the tenant a completed and detailed application. In this application, the landlord should verify employment, credit, and past rental history. If the landlord is not comfortable with the information provided they should continue to seek out other applicants.
- Landlords should know at this time they cannot ask for greater deposits or demand prepaid rent to avoid the risk of renting at this time. All RTA (Residential Tenancy Act) policies remain in full effect.
4. What are the recommendations on safety procedures and PPE required for maintenance personnel when providing maintenance services to tenants in their suites, an example: plumbing.
- Many contractors have instituted their own policies and procedures for remaining safe. Ensuring you hire a contractor that is taking necessary precautions is important to keeping everyone safe. Nonessential repairs and services have been deferred by many contractors. Emergency-related repairs each require the same safety protocols recommended and established by the health authority.
5. Someone was wondering about the situation faced by tenants looking for roommates to help pay the rent. They are essentially asking a stranger to come into their home and live there. They can still technically distance themselves from the roommate, but if they go out and get infected, they will bring that into the home. Without them, the total rent and bills are unaffordable. Rock and a hard place?
- Rock and a hard place: Yes. Having a roommate will involve additional risks. Risk and exposure must be considered. Each individual must assess the risk involved with bringing a roommate on a case-by-case basis. Qualifying the roommate both economically and health-wise will help to reduce the risk involved.
6. If a family member is renting from another, are they eligible for the provincial rent subsidy?
- If the family member renting is a legitimate leaseholder and exchanging funds for the property then there should be no reason why they would not qualify; considering all criteria to qualify for the subsidy is met.
7a. Has there been any provincial or federal policy that might restrict increases or place temporary moratoriums on strata fee increases and or insurance fees?
- We are not aware of any movement to amending the strata property act to address the owner’s obligation to pay strata fees. Strata fees remain due and payable.
7b. Tenants or renters have received assistance, but there appears to be nothing that could help a senior strata owner on a fixed income absorb these increases during a difficult period. If not, could that be from a lack of lobbying either by strata corps or property managers?
- There is lobbying going on right now with the government by stakeholders in the strata industry to implementing some type of protocol or restrictions relating to insurance increases. This is still about a year or more away.
8. If small businesses are unable to meet their lease payments because they’re closed, what are their options?
- As of today, there is no relief for business owners relating to rental obligations. The policy is being created and announced to assist business owners with rent relief. To be announced within the coming week. We recommend speaking with your landlord to arrange some type of base-rent relief during this time.