Canadians who rent apartments or condominiums may be feeling unsettled over what options they have if they cannot afford to pay their rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal government introduced its Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) package, which is part of the $107 billion program for Canadians to soften the blow if they lose their jobs due to the novel coronavirus. With CREB, affected workers who qualify can get up to $2,000 a month for up to four months. Still, it remains an open question if it’s enough for renters who can’t keep up with their rental payments on top of their other financial responsibilities.
How Expensive Is It to Rent a One-Bedroom Apartment in a Canadian City?
Toronto tops the list as the most expensive city to rent a one-bedroom apartment in at an average cost of $2,230. After Toronto, here are the nine next most expensive Canadian cities to rent a one-bedroom apartment:
- Vancouver – $2,200
- Burnaby, B.C. – $1,800
- Victoria – $1,600
- Montreal – $1,490
- Ottawa – $1,440
- Kelowna, B.C. – $1,400
- Barrie and Kitchener, ON – $1,390
- Oshawa, ON – $1,380
Of other major Canadian cities, the cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Hamilton, ON, is $1,290, Calgary is $1,130, Winnipeg is $980, Edmonton is $950, and Regina is $900.
What Can Governments Do to Support Renters During the Crisis?
Provincial governments are responsible for regulating rental agreements (and disagreements) in their provinces.
Canada’s big banks are offering mortgage deferrals for homeowners impacted by COVID-19, prompting many tenant advocacy groups to call on their provincial governments to step up and protect renters. They say it’s necessary for governments to temporarily prevent landlords from evicting any tenants who cannot pay their rent because of the coronavirus’ impact on the economy. To date, only a few provinces have temporarily suspended eviction notices, including Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
It’s a serious concern as highlighted in a recent Leger survey, which finds 38% of Canadians say their income is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and 27% admit they will not be able to pay all their bills.
What Rights Do Ontario Renters Have?
In Ontario, a landlord can only evict you for a specific situation they must spell out through the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB). Should the LTB give the landlord the green light to end a tenancy, the renter is allowed to appear at a hearing to present their side of the story. On that note, the LTB has suspended the issuance of eviction orders and all hearings related to evictions until further notice.
However, the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario wants to see Ontario go a step further by providing funds to those who cannot afford to pay their rent. Other grassroots community groups in Ontario are demanding the provincial government suspends rent payments for the duration of the pandemic.
What Rights do Alberta Tenants Have?
In Alberta, landlords also must provide written notice to a tenant for an eviction that outlines the reasons for it. Tenants can dispute the notice through the province’s Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service or the provincial court. However, if a tenant fails to pay their rent on time, the landlord still has the right to evict. Although the Alberta government has implemented measures to assist Albertans during the pandemic, it has only asked landlords to “show the same kind of flexibility” the big banks have for mortgage holders to date.
How Does Tenant Insurance Help Renters?
Tenant or renter insurance protects tenants’ personal property and provides them with liability coverage and living expenses in the event they need to file a claim. However, tenant insurance does not provide funds for renters to pay their rent because of an economic downturn or a pandemic.