PEI

IRAC suspends rental hearings until April 6 because of COVID-19

The Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission says that date may change depending on direction from the province's public health office.

'The protection is there for tenants not to be evicted at least until April 6'

With April 1 around the corner, the commission has been getting a lot of calls from people concerned about paying rent. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC) is suspending all rental hearings until April 6 because of COVID-19.

Jennifer Perry, the director of residential rental property with IRAC, said the decision means the commission is not filing any orders or written decisions at this time.

On its website, the commission has a notice to update tenants and landlords. 

Perry said the commission chose April 6 to coincide with when schools are due to be back in session, but said there's a chance that may change. 

"The protection is there for tenants not to be evicted at least until April 6," she said.

"I watch every news broadcast like everybody else and chances are, we're not going to be back to normal."

'One to two months away from absolute poverty'

Heather MacDonald, a renter in Charlottetown, said postponing the hearings is a good step and agreed the situation with COVID-19 will probably not be resolved by April 6.

"I think that it's a temporary measure that's going to have to be extended," MacDonald said.

That's very scary for tenants to receive that, especially during a health crisis.- Ainsley Kendrick, P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing

MacDonald lives with her husband in a one-bedroom apartment and said she's concerned about making rent next month. 

"If I were to still get food and feed my cats and live — I wouldn't even say comfortably at that point," she said.

"We are one to two months away from absolute poverty or homelessness."

MacDonald said she's reached out to her landlord, who she said has been "wonderful," in order to come up with a solution that satisfies both parties.

Heather MacDonald and her husband Johnny. She says her landlord is working with the couple to find a reasonable option to pay their rent next month. (Submitted by Heather MacDonald)

With April 1 around the corner, Perry said the commission has been getting a lot of calls from people concerned about paying rent.

Her advice to tenants is to do what MacDonald did.

'Landlords are in an equally tough position'

"Tell the landlord, 'You know what, I can pay weekly or I can pay half now and half later,'" she said.

"I'm looking for people to be kind and take a common sense approach."

Jennifer Perry, the director of residential rental property with IRAC, says the commission is not filing any orders or written decisions at this time. (IRAC)

Ainsley Kendrick, with the advocacy group P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing, said it's an approach the group is also advising renters to take. 

"We understand that landlords are in an equally tough position," she said.

"We don't want to start fights. We just encourage people to have compassion for each other and have real, open, honest dialogue."

Kendrick said the group has reached out to the province about what it's doing to support tenants renting from private landlords. 

Last week, the province announced it would be suspending evictions by the P.E.I. Housing Corporation, the largest landlord in the province, for six weeks.

Kendrick said the advocacy group would like to see a moratorium on evictions, similar to what Nova Scotia has put in place. 

"You know, very, very soon these eviction notices might be issued," she said. "And that's very scary for tenants to receive that, especially during a health crisis."

Kendrick said the group, along with Community Legal Information, is creating a template letter for tenants to help negotiate rent deferrals.

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.

About the Author

Isabella Zavarise is a video journalist with CBC in P.E.I. You can contact her at isabella.zavarise@cbc.ca

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