The rent is due: Quebecers worry about paying for roof over their heads

Nearly half a million Quebecers are tenants, and with reduced salaries, lost jobs and a long wait for an employment insurance cheque, many are worried about what to tell the landlord on April 1.

According to a report, 23% of Quebec tenants only have a week's worth of savings to fall back on

Figuring out how to pay the rent during the COVID-19 pandemic has left many Quebecers anxious. (Radio-Canada)

"Once April is paid, I pretty much have no money left to eat or do anything else."

Samuel Côté is a tenant, and like almost a million other Canadians, he applied for employment insurance after losing his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

And like so many others, he's worried he won't have the money to remain in his home, should his landlord ask for the rent.

"Things are looking pretty grim," Côté said.

According to Statistics Canada, 416,000 Quebecers are tenants, and without a source of income, many don't have the savings to dip into to cover future rent payments.

A report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives this week highlights that 23 per cent of Quebec households that rent have less than a week of savings to rely on.

"We definitely need to have something put in place to help tenants pay their rent," said Catherine Lussier, a community organizer with the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU).

Samuel Côté says he can afford April's rent but not much else, and he is worried what will happen to him. (Submitted by Samuel Côté)

The Quebec rental board, the Régie du logement, has suspended all hearings and has put a moratorium on evictions and repossessions — a provision of the public health emergency declared by the provincial government on March 14.

The federal government has also announced financial measures to help Canadians in trouble, including speeding up employment insurance pay-outs, emergency care benefits and money for parents.

On March 14, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the federal agency which insures mortgages acquired with a down payment of less than 20 per cent, tweeted that it "will support lenders in allowing deferral of mortgage payments for up to six months." 

In a statement Tuesday, CMHC president and CEO Evan Siddall, said the corporation expects any banks and housing providers it works with  "to act compassionately and refrain from evicting their fellow Canadians."

"We expect landlords to suspend evictions."

"Landlords with CMHC-insured mortgages (and this is a very large segment of the market) who are facing financial difficulties have access to the same tools and relief measures as homeowners, such as mortgage deferrals," Siddall said. "This will give landlords the financial flexibility they need to show compassion and patience to their tenants in these extraordinary times." 

But housing advocates say those measures won't help tenants make the rent, month after month, should the crisis drag on.

Landlords worried, too

While deferrals are being made available in some situations, many landlords won't consider them enough to allow them to defer collecting rents.

"One thing is sure: we won't have relief," said Hans Brouillette, the director of public affairs for CORPIQ, the largest association of landlords in Quebec.

Hans Brouillette, director of public affairs for the landlords' association CORPIQ, says rents still need to be paid. (CBC)

"We will have to pay those months eventually, including the interest. Definitely, there will be huge problems if the rents aren't paid in April."

The City of Montreal has pushed back its deadline for the payment of the second instalment of property taxes, but that, too, is simply a deferred payment.

The onus remains on the landlord to decide whether to cancel, reduce or push rent deadlines back.

"I'm asking landlords to be very open-minded and to be flexible around rent," said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

Rent and measures related to it fall under provincial jurisdiction.

Premier François Legault has yet to directly address the issues raised by tenants, and the Municipal Affairs and Housing Ministry did not reply to requests for comment.

About the Author

Sarah Leavitt


Sarah Leavitt is a journalist with CBC Montreal.

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