N.S. landlords worried about confusion surrounding rent payments amid COVID-19
'Unfortunately, there are renters who think this means three free months of rent,' says Stella Van der Lugt
Landlords in Nova Scotia worry renters wrongly think they don't have to pay rent during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Stella Van der Lugt owns rental properties and runs a Facebook group for landlords in the province. She said many would "face ruin" if renters don't pay for April and beyond.
"Unfortunately, there are renters who think this means three free months of rent, which is most certainly not the case," she said Monday.
Premier Stephen McNeil said tenants should talk to their landlords if the COVID-19 outbreak has meant they haven't been able to get rent money.
"For those of us in this province who can afford to pay our rent, pay your rent please — on time. This is not an opportunity for people to stop paying their rent," he said Monday. "That directive was for those who have lost their jobs, or had their income impacted, by COVID-19."
McNeil said landlords he's spoken to are willing to work with tenants, but that means "the rest of us" must pay rent on time.
The government has said that "no tenant can be evicted because their income has been impacted by COVID-19" for the next three months. McNeil said if an eviction had been started before the outbreak, that eviction could still go ahead. Similarly, evictions not related to the outbreak can likewise continue, he said.
On March 27, the province asked commercial landlords to defer lease payments for three months for businesses closed by COVID-19. It offered compensation of up to $5,000 per month to landlords if the business doesn't reopen.
The province did not make a similar offer to landlords who rent homes or apartments.
"The government and banks should also afford small landlords the same mortgage relief provided to others, for the sake of both owners and tenants," Van der Lugt said. "The rent does eventually have to be paid."
Many small landlords also hold regular jobs, she said, and may have lost those jobs in the pandemic and now also face the prospect of losing rental incomes.
"The bottom line is that these people are mostly not rich and often have mortgages to pay on the properties they rent," she said.
If small landlords go under, she said, it could make it that much harder to find rental units after the pandemic.
Most landlords are willing to work with tenants who have lost work, she said, and many are finding ways to ensure renters and landlords both survive the pandemic with minimal disruption.
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