The Ontario government has introduced the Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act that would, if passed, freeze rent in 2021 for most rent-controlled and non-rent-controlled residential units. The bill would provide the vast majority of Ontario’s tenants with financial relief as the province continues down the path of renewal, growth and economic recovery.
The announcement was made by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“From the very beginning of this pandemic, our government promised the families, workers and small business owners of this province that we would have their backs and provide them with the support they need to get back on their feet,” said Premier Ford. “The crisis is far from over and the threat of a second wave is real, as are the challenges it will bring. That’s why we need to take the necessary steps now to help families keep a roof over their heads and small businesses keep their doors open.”
The Helping Tenants and Small Businesses Act also proposes to change the Commercial Tenancies Act to extend the temporary ban on evictions for commercial tenants. The ban was initially in place from May 1, 2020 to August 31, to align with the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) for small businesses. This temporary ban would continue to apply to businesses that are eligible for federal-provincial rent assistance through the CECRA for small businesses, but their landlord chose not to apply for the program. The ban will protect small businesses from being locked out or having their assets seized during COVID-19.
“Our government wants to stabilize rents for Ontario’s 1.7 million rental households for 2021, because this year is not like any other year,” said Minister Clark. “We know that families are continuing to be impacted by COVID-19. We know landlords have worked hard to be accommodating and have made sacrifices. We know that by continuing to work together, we will move past this extraordinary time and get Ontario back on track.”
Extending the ban on commercial evictions would allow Ontario to continue to protect small businesses and help them get back on their feet, so they can create jobs and help rebuild the economy.
“Our government has been there to support small businesses since the beginning of COVID-19,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance. “We partnered with the federal government to provide commercial rent relief and so far over 50,000 tenants have received support. Unfortunately, COVID-19 isn’t behind us. That’s why we are working with our federal partners to explore opportunities to ensure small businesses continue to receive the support they need.”
This proposed legislation would also create a single register of voters for municipal and provincial elections, which is expected to be more accurate, could mean fewer corrections for voters at polling stations, fewer delays for people on election day, and may reduce costs for municipalities.
The Residential Tenancies Act sets out the formula for calculating the maximum allowable rent increase for the next year in rent-controlled units. These amendments would revise the guideline for 2021, which is set at 1.5 per cent. The residential rent increase guideline applies to most tenants living in rented houses, semis, basement apartments, condos, as well as care homes, mobile homes, and land lease communities. The proposed rent freeze would end on December 31, 2021. However, a landlord could give proper 90 days’ notice before the freeze ends for a rent increase that takes effect starting in 2022.
The Protecting Tenants and Strengthening Community Housing Act, passed this summer, encourages landlords to try to negotiate a repayment agreement with a tenant before seeking eviction if rent has not been paid during COVID-19.