For now, tenants can’t be evicted for failure to pay rent.
What happens next after the B.C. provincial government lifts the current state of emergency may be a totally different thing.
Based on what the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre is hearing, there is a lot of apprehension among renters regarding a post-COVID-19 situation.
“Renters are relieved that they can’t be evicted, but are concerned about the future, and looking to government to provide some sort of significant financial asistance or rent relief program,” TRAC executive director Andrew Sakamoto told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.
First declared on March 18, 2020, the provincial state of emergency in B.C. has been extended to May 12 this year.
Special orders related to the state of emergency, including the moratorium on most evictions, remain in effect until that date.
According to Sakamoto, renters feel that it may be “just sort of kicking the can down the road”.
“It’s one thing to implement an eviction moratorium and help renters survive the pandemic by keeping them in their homes,” the TRAC executive director said.
It’s a whole other issue to help those renters recover, according to him.
“We can’t have this tsunami of evictions that we are delaying,” Sakamoto said.
According to Sakamoto, TRAC has started discussions with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing about a post-pandemic program for renters.
“What I will say is that both the premier [John Horgan] and the minister of muncipal affairs and housing [Selina Robinson] said that no renter will lose their home due to COVID-19, and so we plan on holding them to that,” Sakamoto said.
The tenant advocate explained that protecting renters can’t just mean doing so during this pandemic.
“In our eyes, that means down the road in the future, they have to help tenants recover from the pandemic,” Sakamoto said.
That applies to landlords as well, particularly small landlords.
According to Sakamoto, there has to be a program that will allow landlords to “demonstrate need and receive some support from government in terms of lost rental income”.
“I don’t think landlords can expect to escape this pandemic without experiencing some loss, just like everyone else,” he said.
The Vancouver Tenants Union has warned about tenants facing “rent debt” because they’re still expected to pay their landlords during this health crisis.
Tenants are also required to cover rent unpaid during the pandemic in the days ahead.
To shield tenants from accumulating rent debt, the Vancouver Tenants Union has launched a campaign to have rents cancelled while COVID-19 rages on.
For its part, LandlordBC has called on the province to double its temporary rent supplement program.
The rental supplement program covers the months of April, May, and June 2020.
The program provides $300 per month for eligible households with no dependents, and $500 each month for households with dependents.
According to LandlordBC, the rent supplement should be increased to $750 per month for renters with no dependents, and $1,000 per month for households with dependents.
In addition, the organization suggested removing the income eligibility test, as well as extending the program to August 2020.
TRAC’s Sakamoto said that the government should be sympathetic to small landlords.
According to Sakamoto, if tenants are to receive rent relief, landlords also have to be given the opportunity to demonstrate that they need assistance from the government.
As of April 29, B.C. Housing, which administers the temporary rent supplement program, has received more than 67,000 applications.
The rent supplement is paid directly to landlords.